Presentation of the 2016 Gilbert Harris Award to
Neil H. Landman September 26, 2016

Citation by Warren D. Allmon

Since 1993, the Gilbert Harris Award has been presented annually by PRI in recognition of career excellence in systematic paleontology. The recipient is a scientist who, through outstanding research and commitment to the centrality of systematics in paleontology, has made a significant contribution to the science.

Neil Landman received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Polytechnic University of New York (now part of NYU), masters degrees in geology from Adelphi and Yale universities, and his PhD from Yale in 1982. He has spent his entire career since then at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he is currently curator, curator-in-charge, and professor in the Division of Paleontology.

He is one of, if not the world’s leading experts on cephalopod paleobiology, especially ammonites. It is no overstatement to say that he has done more than any other modern researcher to bring ammonites to life.

Describing Neil’s contributions is daunting. Just in the study of ammonites, he has made landmark discoveries that have greatly expanded our knowledge of their life history, anatomy, systematics, phylogeny, biogeography, paleoecology, and extinction. Just a few of his specific contributions include documenting the egg size of ammonites and its possible role in their extinction, confirming the structure and arrangement of ammonite jaws, application of suture form to phylogenetic systematics, discovery that at least a few ammonite species survived the end-Cretaceous event for at least a few thousand years, and (my favorite) the recent proposal that perhaps the reason there are no fossils preserving ammonite tentacles is because they did not have any.

He has studied the evolution, systematics, biogeography, and biostratigraphy of ammonites from Cretaceous rocks of the Western Interior Seaway and (more recently) the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains, where he and his colleagues and students have discovered numerous new Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary sections. His hundreds of scientific papers include several taxonomic monographs — both of particular groups of ammonites (especially scaphites) and entire molluscan faunas. He has also collected and studied living Nautilus in Palau, Fiji, and New Caledonia. And earlier this year he co-authored a description of a new crinoid species from cold methane seeps in the Pierre Shale of South Dakota, continuing work he has done on these distinctive paleoenvironments over several decades. Neil’s two landmark edited volumes on nautiloid and ammonoid paleobiology are monuments to the continuing value of careful natural history in the understanding of the evolution of important groups of organisms and are essential references for these taxa.

For his prolific and careful descriptive empirical work, his creative application of observations to develop new insights into the biology of one of the most charismatic of all invertebrate fossil groups, and for his understated style of total mastery of his subject, it is with pleasure and honor that the Paleontological Research Institution presents its 2016 Gilbert Harris Award to Neil Landman.