THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
PI: Prof.Richard Wrangham
Joyce Benenson, Andy Cunningham, Luke Glowacki, Zarin Machanda, Katherine McAuliffe, Alexandra Rosati, Erik Scully
The Behavioral Ecology Lab explores the evolutionary significance of human and non-human behavior. Long-term research (since 1987) is focused on the behavioral ecology of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Please visit the Kibale Chimpanzee Project website. Our lab supports nutritional analyses of foods eaten by humans (Hadza, Ju-Hoansi), great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas), and monkeys (pitheciids, snub-nosed monkeys, capuchins). Current graduate student research includes human behavioral ecology, chimpanzee and bonobo behavioral ecology, physiological and experimental studies of the significance of cooking, and research into cognitive and behavioral development in bonobos, chimpanzees and humans. Back to Top
PI: Prof. Noreen Tuross
Lab Manager: Linda Reynard
Projects available in the Tuross Lab for Senior Thesis Topics:
The Biogeochemistry Laboratory conducts research on the incorporation and preservation of molecular information primarily in vertebrate calcified tissues to address questions of human response to changing climate, diet, mobility, and disease. The laboratory focuses on light isotope ratio mass spectrometry as well as biochemical approaches to protein and DNA preservation and utility to inform our knowledge of the past.
Current interests include the mechanisms of isotopic fractionation and incorporation in mammals, with a special emphasis on natural abundance hydrogen and oxygen isotopes. The relationship and impact of human diet, mobility and age on isotopic values (C, N, O and H) in a variety of tissues. In addition, the laboratory maintains a focus on human disease and the molecular preservation of disease informative molecules in the fossil record. Back to Top
PI: Assistant Professor, Katie Hinde
Cary Allen-Blevins, Laura Klein, Amy Skibiel
Mother’s milk has an organizational effect on infant outcomes, not just by providing the energy that sustains growth, but by also contributing to immunological, neurobiological, and behavioral development. Guided by evolutionary theory, we investigate how variation in mother’s milk and behavioral care influences infant outcomes from post-natal life into adulthood and subsequent generations.
PI: Assoc. Prof. Charles Nunn
Collin McCabe, Hillary Young
The Comparative Primatology Research Group uses a comparative approach to investigate primate behavior and ecology; specifically, phylogeny-based methods to investigate a diverse array of questions,
- - What factors drive disease risk in primates, and has infectious disease influenced primate behavior?
- - How do animal social systems influence the spread of cultural traits?
- - What accounts for variation in sleep patterns across primates and other mammals?
- - What are the causes and consequences of reproductive skew in primates?
- - What can be learned from applying phylogenetic methods to study human cultural traits?
In addition to these questions, the research group is interested in developing and applying new phylogeny-based methods, and making these methods more readily available to evolutionary anthropologists.
PI: Ass't Prof. Tanya Smith,
Lab Manager: Nancy Tang
Kate Carter, Dan Green
Dental development in humans and great apes begins prior to birth and continues throughout adolescence. Like many biological systems, hard tissue formation is characterized by a circadian rhythm. Given that dental remains are the most common, well-preserved type of fossil evidence for extinct species of primates, examination of incremental growth processes may shed new light on the evolutionary developmental biology of early humans.
Examination of hard tissue development from a histological perspective is a relatively new field of odontological inquiry, particularly in relation to answering phylogenetic questions. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies on incremental dental development in hominoids. Studies on Plio-Pleistocene hominids and Neanderthals have indicated that the relatively slow developmental rate and prolonged duration of modern human crown formation may be a fairly recent and unique development.
Histological analysis of dental material facilitates understanding of the final functional products of the processes of development and growth, which may be understood in terms of enamel thickness (macrostructure) and enamel microstructure. Recent studies have provided information on age at death in hominids with developing dentitions, absolute and relative timing of dental development, age at M1 emergence, and differences in the developmental pathways of enamel formation. These studies have important implications for our understanding of hominid evolution and the origin of developmentally modern humans.
PI: Prof. Maryellen Ruvolo,
Evolution leaves its traces in the DNA sequences of living species. Not only can we reconstruct how species are related to each other, but we can also distinguish the action of natural selection from the random process of genetic drift. Our lab focuses on finding the molecular bases for adaptations that are unique to primates and, in particular, to humans. Current research includes projects on reproductive genes that undergo adaptation beginning with the origin of haplorhines when invasive placentae evolve and continuing on hominoids, on human genes associated with endurance and athletic abilities, and on the evolution of novel (functional) hominoid retrogenes. These studies contribute to the important question: what genetic adaptations are responsible for the unique aspects of the human phenotype?
PI: Prof. Richard Wrangham
Lab Manager: Nancy Lou Conklin-Brittain
Our lab supports nutritional analyses of foods eaten by humans (Hadza, Ju-Hoansi), great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas), and monkeys (pitheciids, snub-nosed monkeys, capuchins). Current graduate student research includes physiological and experimental studies of the significance of cooking.
PI: Prof. David Pilbeam, Lab Director: J. Barry
Larry Flynn, Michele Morgan, Bridget Alex,
The Paleoanthropology Lab serves as the locus for a broad range of activities focusing on the evolution of hominoids, including hominins, as well as other mammals. Collaboration with other labs, as well as with other universities, make possible interdisciplinary approaches to questions covering phylogenetics, systematics, behavioral reconstruction, broad patterns of faunal change and evolution, and paleoecology.
PI: Prof. Peter Ellison,
Lab Manager: Susan Lipson
Alicia Breakey, Meredith Reiches,
Heather Heidorn, Sam Urlacher
The Reproductive Ecology lab conducts research on human physiology and life history evolution, particularly reproductive physiology and the regulation of reproductive effort, a field that has become known as reproductive ecology. The research group developed methods for non-invasive monitoring of reproductive hormones in the early 1980's and introduced these techniques into field investigations of human reproductive ecology around the globe. They have demonstrated the sensitivity of female ovarian function to changing maternal energetic conditions, variation in the pattern of male gonadal function with age across different populations, and variation in male testosterone with mating and parenthood status.
Current research interests in the lab include linkages between energy metabolism and reproductive physiology in men and women, adolescent maturation, early determinants of reproductive function and reproductive behavior, linkages between psychological, cognitive, and reproductive factors, linkages between reproductive ecology and reproductive behavior, and the health consequences of reproductive responses to lifestyle and environmental conditions.
PI: Prof. Dan Lieberman
Lab Manager: Anna Warrener
Brian Addison, Meir Barak, Eric Castillo,
Heather Dingwall, Carolyn Eng, Brenda Frazier,
Kristi Lewton, Philip Rightmire, Katherine Zink
The Skeletal Biology lab group studies the evolution and function of the musculo-skeletal system, with a primary focus on using morphometric and experimental approaches to problems relevant to human evolution. Current research projects include: morphometric and developmental studies of craniofacial growth in humans, hominids, and other mammals; experimental studies of the biomechanics of locomotion, especially running; experimental studies of the biomechanics of chewing; experimental studies on the influences of mechanical loading on bone growth and shape.