Research Interests

My work has been an attempt to improve our understanding of human evolution using modern biological methods. While extraordinary cognition obviously sets us apart from other mammals, this singular adaptation is usually viewed as having occurred only recently, and relies almost entirely on brain size. It therefore fails to integrate other characters that may have interacted to selectively favor advanced cerebration. These potentially interacting factors include many highly specialized elements of diet, locomotion, reproductive biology, and social behavior that are unique to humans and our ancestors. What interrelationships among such characters might have interacted to encourage brain expansion? Explication requires examining the human fossil record from the perspectives of structural anatomy, evolutionary theory, developmental genetics, biomechanics, reproductive biology, and demography. When applied to pivotal human ancestral species such as Australopithecus afarensis and Ardipithecus ramidus, they suggest that a unique combination of key biological elements encouraged advanced cerebration to emerge much earlier than has previously been suspected. Cognition, rather than being merely a "natural" outcome of complex organic evolution in a hominoid primate, may instead be largely an historical accident derived from a singular array of non-neural traits emergent in our ancestors over deep time.

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Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology