Ryan Bebej

Ryan Bebej


  • B.S. in Biology (with honors), Calvin College, 2005
  • Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 2011

Professional Experience

  • Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, IL), Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences (2011-2012)
  • Museum assistant, University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, under the supervision of Dr. Philip Gingerich (2009-2011)
  • Field assistant on University of Michigan-Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency expedition in Wadi Al-Hitan, Egypt, under the supervision of Dr. Philip Gingerich and Dr. Iyad Zalmout (2009)

Professional Website


Dr. Bebej’s research focuses on the evolutionary history of aquatic mammals, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). He is especially interested in the earliest stages of these land-to-sea transitions, focusing on how the terrestrial and semiaquatic ancestors of these animals became increasingly adapted for aquatic life. His work has focused on the structural and functional changes of the vertebral column and the evolution of derived modes of aquatic locomotion.

When he isn’t working, Dr. Bebej loves spending time with his family. He is a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan and cheers on the basketball and football teams at his alma mater (University of Michigan). He also enjoys reading, discussing issues related to science and faith, watching movies, photography, super heroes, and playing German tabletop games.

Academic interests

Dr. Bebej’s academic interests include comparative anatomy, functional morphology, vertebrate paleontology, and the evolutionary history of mammals. In the past, he has worked on fossil horses and pinnipeds, but most of his research has focused on fossil cetaceans. For his doctoral work at the University of Michigan, he studied an enigmatic group of fossil whales from the middle Eocene of Pakistan called remingtonocetids. His research focused on their postcranial skeleton and utilized multivariate statistical analyses and three-dimensional multibody dynamic models to test hypotheses of vertebral function. In 2009, he spent two months on a paleontological dig in Egypt, where he helped to excavate the skeletons of fossil whales at Wadi Al-Hitan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Egypt's western desert. He routinely spends time working in collections at world-renowned museums (including the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC), where he studies the anatomies of modern mammals to aid in the interpretation of fossil forms. Professor Bebej is also deeply interested in the relationship between science and Christian faith.

Courses taught


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Research and scholarship

Dr. Bebej’s current research focuses on the transition from foot-powered to tail-powered swimming in the earliest fossil cetaceans.


R.M. Bebej, K.M. Smith. 2017. Lumbar mobility in archaeocetes (Mammalia: Cetacea) and the evolution of aquatic locomotion in the earliest whales. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx058

P.D. Gingerich, K. Heissig, R.M. Bebej, W. von Koenigswald. 2017. Astragali of Pakicetidae and other early-to-middle Eocene archaeocetes (Mammalia, Cetacea) of Pakistan: locomotion and habitat in the initial stages of whale evolution. Pal√§ontologische Zeitschrift 91: 601-627. DOI: 10.1007/s12542-017-0362-8

R.M. Bebej. 2017. Book review: Cetacean Paleobiology by by Felix G. Marx, Olivier Lambert, and Mark D. Uhen. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 69: 113-114.

R.M. Bebej, I.S. Zalmout, A.A. Abed El-Aziz, M.S.M. Antar, P.D. Gingerich. 2015. First remingtonocetid archaeocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the middle Eocene of Egypt with implications for locomotion and biogeography in early cetacean evolution. Journal of Paleontology 89: 882-893. DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2015.57

R.M. Bebej. 2013. Book review: Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist by Robert J. Asher. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 65: 56-58.

R.M. Bebej, M. ul-Haq, I.S. Zalmout, and P.D. Gingerich. 2012. Morphology and function of the vertebral column in Remingtonocetus domandaensis (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the middle Eocene Domanda Formation of Pakistan. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 19: 77-104. DOI: 10.1007/s10914-011-9184-8

A.R. Wood, R.M. Bebej, C.L. Manz, D.L. Begun, and P.D. Gingerich. 2011. Postcranial functional morphology of Hyracotherium (Equidae, Perissodactyla) and locomotion in the earliest horses. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 18: 1-32. DOI: 10.1007/s10914-010-9145-7

R.M. Bebej. 2009. Swimming mode inferred from skeletal proportions in the fossil pinnipeds Enaliarctos and Allodesmus (Mammalia, Carnivora). Journal of Mammalian Evolution 16: 77-97. DOI: 10.1007/s10914-008-9099-1


Calvin College Professor of the Year 2017


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