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Department of Geology
Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Phone: (610) 526-7392
Fax: (610) 526-5086

W. Bruce Saunders

Contact Information:

Bryn Mawr College

Department of Geology

Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Office Location: 190 Park Science Building

Phone: (610)526-5114

Fax: (610)526-5086

email: wsaunder(at)

Fields of Study:

Cephalopod biology and paleobiology, marine biology and Carboniferous biostratigraphy

Research Interests:

My research interests focus primarily on cephalopod biology and paleobiology, with emphasis on functional morphology of fossil cephalopods, marine biology (focusing primarily on Nautilus) and Carboniferous biostratigraphy. Specific projects include the following:

  • The evolution of the septal sutures of ammonoid cephalopods are one of the best known examples of the evolution of complexity in the fossil record. The function of the suture and reasons for the pervasive bias to increase suture complexity through time is not fully understood, but its documentation and analysis of trends in suture complexity have been the subjects of several recent investigations.
  • Ammonoid cephalopods were among the fastest evolving organisms in the fossil record. Morphometric studies of Paleozoic ammonoids (spanning 180 my) show that these organisms occupied a limited and apparently preferred morphologic landscape; functional investigations offer suggestions as to why.
  • Ammonoids have been regarded as one of the very best of fossil chronometers, and this justified much of my interest in their systematics and biostratigraphic applications.
  • The chambered nautilus is the only surviving cephalopod with an external shell, used for protection and buoyancy control. As such, it is the only living organism that shows the same body- and shell arrangement as the once diverse and cosmopolitan ammonoid cephalopods. Today it is represented by six species and two genera, Nautilus and Allonautilus, which range throughout much of the Indo-Pacific. My investigations of the chambered nautilus commenced in the 1970's, and have focused on the morphology, ecology, life history, geographic distribution of populations and speciation of this enigmatic living fossil.
  • As an outgrowth of studies of Nautilus, I have undertaken several investigations of deep-water marine crustaceans, related to their biology and fisheries potential.

Five Selected Publications:

Saunders, W.B., L.C. Hastie, and T. Paulis. Deep-water shrimp survey and feasibility study, Republic of Palau, Western Caroline Islands. Pacific Fisheries Development Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii, 120 pp.

Saunders, W.B. and N.H. Landman, eds. Nautilus: The Biology and Paleobiology of a Living Fossil. Plenum Press, New York. 632 + xxviii pp, 270 figs.

Saunders, W.B., D.M. Work and S.V. Nikolaeva. Evolution of complexity in Paleozoic ammonoids. Science 286:760-763, 1999

Saunders, W.B., and D.M. Work. Evolution of shell and suture in Paleozoic Prolecanitida, the root-stock of Mesozoic ammonoids. Paleobiol. 23:301-325, 1997.

Saunders, W.B. and W.H.C. Ramsbottom. The mid-Carboniferous eustatic event. Geology. 14:208-212, 1985.