Dr Espen Knutsen

Dr Espen Knutsen is Senior Curator Palaeontology at the Queensland Museum Network, based at the Museum of Tropical Queensland campus in Townsville.  His position is co-appointed with the College of Science and Engineering at James Cook University. 

Originally from Norway, Espen completed his PhD at the University of Oslo in 2012.

He is a vertebrate palaeontologist, that over the past 12 years has conducted pioneering fieldwork and excavations in Australia, the Arctic, The Netherlands and USA . He has described five new species of Jurassic marine reptiles, and was part of an international multidisciplinary research team studying a newly discovered Jurassic marine ecosystem from the high-arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway.

The process and results of this pioneering project were featured in two TV documentaries - National Geographic's Death of a Sea Monster and History Channel/BBC's Predator X.


He has a special interest in the diversity, evolution and ecology of Mesozoic reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and dinosaurs. Current projects, involving fieldwork throughout Australia for the Australian Mesozoic Tetrapod Project, aim to fill significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous vertebrate fauna in the southern hemisphere 

Twitter @espenkn80


Cretaceous marine reptile research led by Espen is supported by Project DIG, a partnership between Queensland Museum Network and BHP to digitally unlock our collection for visitors and researchers worldwide. Espen is using innovative technologies such as drone photography, photogrammetry, CT scanning and 3D modelling to capture new data which will help paint a comprehensive picture of Cretaceous marine reptiles from Queensland. This data fills significant gaps in our knowledge of the marine reptiles from this period and will be shared with researchers across the globe. Learn more about this research 

Research Publications

Foley, E.K., Roberts, E.M., Henderson, R.A., Todd, C.N., Knutsen, E.M., Spandler, C. 2022. Middle Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous stratigraphy of the northern Great Australian Superbasin: insights from maximum
depositional age constraints from the U–Pb detrital zircon record. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/08120099.2022.2066176.

Foley, E.K., Roberts, E.M., Knutsen, E.M. 2022. Deciphering Late Cretaceous palaeo-river catchments in eastern Australia: Recognition of distinct northern and southern drainage basins. Basin Research, 34(2), pp. 590–617

Foley, E.K., Henderson, R.A., Roberts, E.M., Kemp, A.I.S., Todd, C.N., Knutsen, E.M., Fisher, C., Wainman, C.C., Spandler, C. 2021. Jurassic Arc: Reconstructing the Lost World of eastern Gondwana. Geology, 49 (11): 1391–1396. doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G49328.1

Foley, E.K., Roberts, E.M., Knutsen, E.M., Hannaford, C. 2021. Cryptic Middle to Late Jurassic marine incursions into northeastern Gondwana: An integrated sedimentological, ichnological and geochronological approach. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

Foley, E.K., Baty, M., Knutsen, E.M., Lignum, J.S., Roberts, E.M. 2020. Jurassic - Early Cretaceous paleogeography and paleoenvironments of the northeastern margin of Gondwana: insights from the
Carpentaria Basin, Australia. Gondwana Research, 88, pp. 126-149.

Knutsen, E.M. and Oerlemans, E. 2020. The last dicynodont? Re-assessing the taxonomic and temporal relationships of a contentious Australian fossil. Gondwana Research, 77, pp. 184-203.

 Todd, C.N., Roberts, E., Knutsen, E.M., Rozefelds, A.C., Spandler, C., Huang, H-Q. 2019. Refined age and geological context of two of Australia's most important Jurassic vertebrate taxa (Rhoetosaurus brownei and Siderops kehli), Queensland. Gondwana Research, 76, pp. 19-25.  

Hammer Ø, Hryniewicz K, Hurum J, Høyberget M, Knutsen E and Nakrem H (2013) Large onychites (cephalopod hooks) from the Upper Jurassic of the Boreal Realm. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 58 (4). pp. 827-835

Druckenmiller P and Knutsen E (2012) Phylogenetic relationships of Upper Jurassic (Middle Volgian) plesiosaurians (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen, Norway.Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 277-284

Druckenmiller P, Hurum J and Knutsen E (2012) Two new ophthalmosaurids (Reptilia: Ichthyosauria) from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Upper Jurassic: Volgian/Tithonian), Svalbard, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 311-339

Hurum J, Nakrem H, Hammer Ø, Knutsen E, Druckenmiller P, Hryniewicz K and Novis L (2012) An arctic lagerstätte – the slottsmøya member of the Agardhfjellet formation (Upper Jurassic – Lower Cretaceous) of Spitsbergen. Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 55-64

Knutsen E (2012) A taxonomic revision of the genus Pliosaurus (Owen, 1841a) Owen, 1841b. Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 259-276

Knutsen E, Druckenmiller P and Hurum J (2012) A new species of Pliosaurus (Sauropterygia: Plesiosauria) from the Middle Volgian of central Spitsbergen, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 235-258

Knutsen E, Druckenmiller P and Hurum J (2012) A new Plesiosauroid (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Middle Volgian) of central Spitsbergen, Norway. Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 213-234

Knutsen E, Druckenmiller P and Hurum J (2012) Two new species of long-necked plesiosaurians (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Upper Jurassic (Middle Volgian) Agardhfjellet Formation of central Spitsbergen.Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 187-212

Knutsen E, Hurum J and Druckenmiller P (2012) Redescription and taxonomic clarification of 'Tricleidus' svalbardensis based on new material from the Agardhfjellet Formation (Middle Volgian). Norwegian Journal of Geology, 92. pp. 175-186

Hammer Ø, Nakrem H, Little C, Hryniewicz K, Sandy M, Hurum J, Druckenmiller P, Knutsen E and Høyberget M (2011) Hydrocarbon seeps from close to the Jurassic–Cretaceous boundary, Svalbard. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 306 (1-2). pp. 15-26 


Senior Curator of Palaeontology