Dept. of Geosciences and Geography
P.O.Box 64, Gustaff Hällströmin katu 2a
FI-00014 University of Helsinki


Research interests

My research focuses on combining existing knowledge of both extinct and extant mammal relationships, mainly with supertree techniques, and using these large-scale phylogenies in palaeoecological and palaeobiogeographical studies. I am using the NOW (New and Old Worlds) database that contains the temporal and spatial information of mammals globally from the last 25 (currently expanding to 65) million years, together with the phylogenies, to explore how changes in environments and the interrelationships between taxa have influenced geographic ranges through time, their effect on speciation and ecological niches, and on the distribution of modern day mammals. I am also using the data to study competition and taxon replacement during extensive time periods in changing environments. I am involved in reviewing and improving the taxonomic and geographical information stored in the NOW database, and act as associate coordinator of the database. My current project (2014-2017) is funded by a postdoctoral research grant from the Academy of Finland. During 2010-2014 worked in a project about the extinction dynamics of Neogene mammals, headed by Prof. Mikael Fortelius.

Previously I have mainly worked on reptiles. My PhD project consisted of a detailed redescription of the Scottish procolophonid Leptopleuron lacertinum, a rediscription of Anomoiodon liliensterni from the Triassic of Germany, a review of the Permian (and some Triassic) procolophonoids of Russia, and creating a detailed, large scale phylogeny of the Procolophonoidea, with special emphasis on the palaeobiogeography and P/Tr extinction survival rate of procolophonoids. I hope to have all my results published in the near future. I am also currently working on some projects concerning the evolution and development of multicuspid dentition, found for example in procolophonids, together with researchers from the Jernvall Evo-Devo lab and University of Helsinki physics department.

Prior to my PhD studies, I worked on a rediscription of a Lower Jurassic reptilian fauna from South Wales, including a new species of Clevosaurus, for my palaeobiology MSc project. Additionally, I also majored in ecological and morphological zoology at Helsinki University. For my MSci thesis project I studied the male mate choice in the poeciliid fish Heterandria formosa, a small fish native to Florida. I am also very interested in the evolutionary history of bats, whales, and turtles.

Recent publications

  • Saarinen, J., Karme, A., Cerling, T., Uno, K., Säilä, L. K., Kasiki, S., Ngene, S., Obari, T., Mbua, E., Manthi, F., Fortelius, M. A new tooth wear-based dietary analysis method for Proboscidea (Mammalia). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, in press.
  • Uhen, M. D., Barnosky, A. D., Bills, B., Blois, J., Carrano, M. T., Carrasco, M. A.,Erickson, G. M., Eronen, J. T., Fortelius, M., Graham, R. W., Grimm, E. C., O'Leary, M. A.,Mast, A., Piel, W. H., Polly, P. D., and Säilä, L. K. 2013. From card catalogs to computers: Databases in vertebrate paleontology. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology, 33: 13-28. PDF
  • Deng, T., Wang, X., Fortelius,M., Li, Q., Wang, Y., Tseng, Z. J., Takeuchi, G. T., Saylor, J. E., Säilä, L. K., and Xie, G. 2011. Out of Tibet: Pliocene woolly rhino suggests high-plateauo origin of Ice Age megaherbivores. Science 333 no. 6047: 1285-1288 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1206594). LINK.
  • Säilä, L. K. 2010. Osteology of Leptopleuron lacertinum Owen, a prolophonoid parareptile from the Upper Triassic of Scotland, with remarks on ontogeny, ecology and affinities. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 101: 1-25. PDF
  • Säilä, L. K. 2010. The phylogenetic position of Nyctiphruretus acudens, a parareptile from the Permian of Russia. Journal of Iberian Geology, 36: 123-143. PDF
  • Ala-Honkola, O., Säilä, L., and Lindström, K. 2010. Males prefer small females in a dichotomous choice tests in the poeciliid fish Heterandria formosa. Ethology, 116: 736-743. PDF
  • Säilä, L. K. 2009. The alpha taxonomy of the Russian Permian procolophonoids. Acta Paleontologia Polonica, 54: 599-608. PDF
  • Säilä, L. K. 2008. The osteology and affinities of Anomoiodon liliensterni, a procolophonid reptile from the Lower Triassic Bundsandstein of Germany. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 28: 1199-1205. PDF

Additional information

I also do scientific illustrations, please have a look: Scientific Illustrations. Most recently my illustrations appeared in the books 'Vertebrate Palaeontology' (4th edition, Mike Benton, in press), and Scottish Fossils (2013, Nigel Trewin), and on the cover of the 'Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh' (issue 101).

Useful links