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Although I have broad interests in palaeontology, my current research is focused primarily on amber inclusions and composition. I have adopted a three-pronged approach to the study of amber, examining amber inclusions, the chemical signatures of resins and ambers, and the stable isotopic composition of carbon and hydrogen within amber. Together, these three aspects allow us to observe palaeoforests and their inhabitants through time, and infer the ecological conditions that were present at the time of resin production. Amber deposits in western Canada offer a particularly important glimpse of insect evolution in the Late Cretaceous, when many of the groups that characterize modern ecosystems were rising to a position of prominence alongside flowering plants, and transitioning across the end-Cretaceous extinction event.
Palaeoentomology of Cretaceous ambers
In general, I am interested in Mesozoic and Cenozoic fossil insects, with particular emphasis on the diversity of parasitoid wasp families. In addition to examining insect relationships and diversity through time, studying amber provides a unique opportunity to observe snapshots of past insect communities and behaviours preserved in exquisite detail. Research on small amber inclusions permits work on a range of insect orders, palaeobotanical remains, and even vertebrate remains, such as feather fragments. Preservation in amber also provides opportunities to examine insect taphonomy and the preservation of colour in the fossil record.
Amber and plant resins as sources of palaeoecological and palaeobotanical information
As part of my research program, I utilize resin and amber stable isotope composition (C and H), and Fourier-transform Infrared spectroscopy in conjunction with the work on inclusions, in order to examine palaeoforests through time. This research allows us to ‘fingerprint’ different amber deposits and examine changes in forest communities, as well as terrestrial conditions in the fossil record. Some of the more interesting applications of this research have included collaborative investigations into the role that insect attacks play in the formation of amber deposits, and variations in prehistoric oxygen levels as recorded by amber composition. Ultimately, this type of research offers additional palaeoecological data for a range of fossil deposits and bonebeds that contain amber or plant remains.
Systematics of Devonian trilobites
I maintain an active research interest in Devonian trilobites that centers around members of the family Phacopidae and their close relatives. Beyond trilobite systematics, I am interested in trilobite-based biostratigraphy and palaeoecology, as well as larger questions surrounding taphonomy and the fossil record of arthropods in general.
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If you are interested in amber research or invertebrate palaeontology as a topic for graduate studies, please feel free to contact me in order to discuss potential projects. I am especially interested in projects that involve palaeoentomology, but there are a wide range of palaeontological problems that pique my curiosity. Students that can make good use of Saskatchewan’s resources, and those that are able to secure external funding or scholarships for their research are particularly encouraged to apply. Please contact me via email, with details of your background, interests, and potential project(s), if you are interested in pursuing graduate studies with the invertebrate palaeontology program at the RSM.
I am currently seeking a student to reconstruct insect life in the Paleocene, as part of an NSERC-funded graduate student position (advertisement to the right). If this advertisement is still visible, the position is still available.
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Online content and profiles:
(Fully updated lists of publications, often with links to available copies of the work, can be found through the following links and profile pages.)
Google Scholar: http://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=h2gItL0AAAAJ&hl=en
McKellar, R.C., and Engel, M.S. (in press). New bethylid and chrysidid wasps (Hymenoptera: Chrysidoidea) from Canadian Late Cretaceous amber. Paläontologische Zeitschrift: 39 draft pp.
McKellar, R.C., and Engel, M.S. (in press). The first Mesozoic Leptopodidae (Hemiptera: Leptopodomorpha) from Canadian Late Cretaceous amber. Historical Biology: 21 draft pp.
Ortega-Blanco, J., McKellar, R.C., and Engel, M.S. (in press). Diverse scelionid wasps from Early Cretaceous Álava amber, Spain (Hymenoptera: Platygastroidea). Bulletin of Geosciences: 33 draft pp.
Engel, M.S., Ortega-Blanco, J., and McKellar, R.C. 2013. New scolebythid wasps in Cretaceous amber from Spain and Canada, with implications for the phylogeny of the family (Hymenoptera: Scolebythidae). Cretaceous Research46: 31–42.
McKellar, R.C., Glasier, J.R.N., and Engel, M.S. 2013. New ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Dolichoderinae) from Canadian Late Cretaceous Amber. Bulletin of Geosciences 88: 583–594.
McKellar, R.C., Glasier, J.R.N., and Engel, M.S. 2013. A new trap-jawed ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Haidomyrmecini) from Canadian Late Cretaceous Amber. The Canadian Entomologist 145(4): 454–465.
McKellar, R.C., Kopylov, D.S., and Engel, M.S. 2013. Ichneumonidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) in Canadian Late Cretaceous amber. Fossil Record 16(2): 217–227.
Tappert, R., McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Tappert, M.C., Ortega-Blanco, J., and Muehlenbachs, K. 2013. Stable carbon isotopes of resin exudates record responses of C3 plants to changes in atmospheric oxygen since the Triassic. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 121: 240–262.
Engel, M.S., McKellar, R.C., and Ortega-Blanco, J. 2013. Introducing Novitates Paleoentomologicae: an outlet for occasional fossil insect research at the University of Kansas. Novitates Paleoentomologicae 1: 1–5.
McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., Meinhold, G., and Ben Rahuma, M.M. 2012. An unusual occurrence ofPedinopariops (Trilobita: Phacopidae) within siliciclastic facies in the Devonian of Awaynat Wanin, Libya. Bulletin of Geosciences 87(2): 219–225.
McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. 2012. Hymenoptera in Canadian Cretaceous amber (Insecta). Cretaceous Research35: 258–279.
McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., Wolfe, A.P., and Currie, P.J. 2012. Response to Comment on “A diverse assemblage of Late Cretaceous dinosaur and bird feathers from Canadian amber”. Science 335: 796. [Full technical response was published online].
Engel, M.S., McKellar, R.C., Gibb, S., and Chatterton, B.D.E. 2012. A new Cenomanian-Turonian (Late Cretaceous) insect assemblage from southeastern Morocco. Cretaceous Research 35: 88–93.
Wolfe, A.P., Csank, A.Z., Reyes, A.V., McKellar, R.C., Tappert, R., and Muehlenbachs, K. 2012. Pristine Early Eocene wood buried deeply in kimberlite from Northern Canada. PLoS One 7(9): 1–8 (e45537).
McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., Wolfe, A.P., and Currie, P.J. 2011. A diverse assemblage of Late Cretaceous dinosaur and bird feathers from Canadian amber. Science 333: 1619–1622.
Perrichot, V., Ortega-Blanco, J., McKellar, R.C., Delclòs, X., Azar, D., Nel, A., Tafforeau, P., and Engel, M.S. 2011. New and revised maimetshid wasps from Cretaceous ambers (Hymenoptera, Maimetshidae). ZooKeys 130: 421–453.
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McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. 2011. First Mesozoic Microphysidae (Hemiptera): a new genus and species in Late Cretaceous amber from Canada. The Canadian Entomologist 143(4): 349–357.
McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. 2011. The serphitid wasps (Hymenoptera: Proctotrupomorpha) of Canadian Cretaceous amber. Systematic Entomology 36(1): 192–208.
McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Muehlenbachs, K., Tappert, R., Engel, M.S., Cheng, T., and Sánchez-Azofeifa, G.A. 2011. Insect outbreaks produce distinctive carbon isotope signatures in defensive resins and fossiliferous ambers.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 1722: 3219–3224.
McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. 2011. New Stigmaphronidae and Megaspilidae (Hymenoptera: Ceraphronoidea) from Canadian Cretaceous amber. Cretaceous Research 32(6): 794–805.
Tappert, R., Wolfe, A.P., McKellar, R.C., Tappert, M., and Muehlenbachs, K. 2011. Characterizing modern and fossil exudates of gymnosperms using micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. International Journal of Plant Sciences 172(1): 120–138.
Wolfe, A.P., Tappert, R., Muehlenbachs, K., Boudreau, M., McKellar, R.C., Basinger, J.F. and Garrett, A. 2009. A new proposal concerning the origin of Baltic amber. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 276: 3403–3412.
McKellar, R.C. and Engel, M.S. 2009. A New Thorny Lacewing (Neuroptera: Rhachiberothidae) from Canadian Cretaceous Amber. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 82(2): 114–121.
McKellar, R.C., Wolfe, A.P., Tappert, R., and Muehlenbachs, K. 2008. Correlation of Grassy Lake and Cedar Lake ambers using infrared spectroscopy, stable isotopes, and palaeoentomology. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences45: 1061–1082.
Books and monographs
McKellar, R.C. and Chatterton, B.D.E. 2009. Early and Middle Devonian Phacopidae (Trilobita) of southern Morocco.Palaeontographica Canadiana 28: 110 pp.
Chatterton, B.D.E., Fortey, R., Brett, K., Gibb, S., and McKellar R. 2006. Trilobites from the upper Lower to Middle Devonian Timrhanrhart Formation, Jebel Gara el Zquilma, southern Morocco. Palaeontographica Canadiana 24: 158 pp.
Contributions to edited volumes
McKellar, R.C., and Wolfe, A.P. 2010. Canadian amber. In: Penney, D. (Ed.) Biodiversity of fossils in amber from the major world deposits. Siri Scientific Press, 149–166.
McKellar, R.C. and Chatterton, B.D.E. 2008. Biostratigraphy and systematics of select Lower and Middle Devonian Phacopidae (Trilobita) from southern Morocco. In: Rabano, I., Gonzalo, R., and Garcia-Bellido, D. (Eds.) Advances in trilobite research. Cuadernos del Museo Geominero 9: 259–264.
McKellar, R.C. 2007. Lixus genus page, Lixus rubellus species page, Lixus musculus species page, Lixus parcusspecies page, and Lixus terminalis species page [species descriptions for the University of Alberta’s E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum]. Available from http://www.entomology.ualberta.ca [cited 2 December 2012].
McKellar, R.C., Chatterton, B.D.E., and McCrea, R.T. 2003. Editors. Thirteenth Canadian Palaeontology Conference, 2003: Fieldtrip guidebook: 103 pp.