Richard Stucky, PhD

Dr. Richard Stucky studies the evolution of mammals to understand how life on our planet has responded to a dynamic world. He focuses on land-based ecological systems from 50 million years ago in North America when the Earth experienced a period of global warming 12 degrees Celsius higher than today.

  • POSITIONCurator of Paleoecology & Evolution
  • EXPERTISE Evolution of mammals
  • PhD

    University of Colorado at Boulder

  • PHONE NUMBER303.370.6434
  • EMAIL[email protected]
  • RESUME Click to Download
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  • 1

    Woodburne, M.O., G.F. Gunnell, and R.K. Stucky. 2009. Land mammal faunas of North America rise and fall during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. Denver Museum of Nature & Science Annals, 1:1-74.

  • 2

    Woodburne, M.O., G.F. Gunnell, and R.K. Stucky. 2009. Climate directly influences Eocene mammal faunal dynamics in North America. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106:13399-13403.

  • 3

    Johnson, K.R. and R.K. Stucky. 1995 and 2006. Prehistoric Journey. Denver Museum of Natural History Press and Fulcrum publishing. 2nd edition

  • 4

    Stucky, R.K. and M.C. McKenna. 1993. Mammalia. The Fossil Record 2. M. Benton,ed. Chapman and Hall, 739-771.

  • 5

    Stucky, R.K. 1990. Evolution of land mammal diversity in North America during theCenozoic. Current Mammalogy, 2:375-432.

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Eocene Mammals

Fifty million years ago, the Western Interior of North America was blanketed with a tropical rain forest. Colorado and Wyoming were teeming with hot weather wildlife, such as early lemur and tarsier-like primates, tapirs, rhinoceroses, crocodiles, and turtles.

Since the 1990s, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has been collecting fossil vertebrates from sites in Wyoming and Colorado that range in age from about 54 to 45 million years old. More than 10,000 specimens have been discovered, giving a rich picture of the changes in faunas through the warmest period of Earth history over the past 65 million years.

Recent work by Dr. Richard Stucky at a site located west of Casper, Wyoming, in rugged badlands has resulted in the description of a new hypercarnivorous creodont, Malfelis badwaterensis ("the bad cat from Badwater, Wyoming"). It was the largest living mammal 50 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch. Though only about the size of a wolf, Malfelis badwaterensis lived up to its modern name, preying on a variety of smaller creatures, from tiny and medium-size rhinos to small three-toed horses and tapirs.

"A creodont is a very primitive group of ancient carnivorous animals that lived just after the time the dinosaurs went extinct," said Dr. Stucky. "It was a complete flesh eater, with no additional dietary proclivities. Hypercarnivores have very sharp teeth at the back of the jaw rather than at the middle of the jaw, like carnivores do."

Over the next several years, an online resource will be developed to provide in-depth information on the ecology, anatomy, and natural history of the ancient creatures of the Eocene. The online guide will include keys to the identification of fossils as well as illustrations of what these animals looked like.

Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars

The Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars program is open to teens from Colorado high schools who demonstrate through essay and interview their determination to be successful and committed to science. The program particularly seeks students whose access to resources may be limited or nonexistent. The scholars receive real hands-on opportunities to participate in the process of science and encouragement to seek careers in the sciences.

The students may choose from one of three disciplines: paleontology, zoology, or health sciences. Dr. Richard Stucky is the mentor for the paleontology students. He and other paleontologists take the students to a field site in central Wyoming to search for evidence of ancient plants and animals from 50 million years ago. After collecting data and fossils, they return to the Museum's laboratory to process the specimens and analyze what they collected. Students even have the opportunity to write their research discoveries, and past scholars have had their research recognized by professional scientists.

"Instead of reading about something in a book, I'm actually doing it," said Olivia Verma, a science scholar. "It's an amazing feeling to be trusted to find fossils and to be trusted to be careful with them."

Get Involved

Click here if you or someone you know is interested in applying for the Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars program.


Natural Disasters

Grades 4-6
Volcanoes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes—what brings on a natural disaster? 

Tropic of Colorado

In this Science Bite, Museum scientists Ian Miller and Richard Stucky show how studying the past can help us figure out how humans may be changing the future of our planet.

Under the Volcano

Grades K & 1
Make your own volcano and learn about the many different kinds of volcanoes from all around the world.

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