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Organised by Professor Alan Walker FRS and Professor Christopher Stringer FRS
Spectacular discoveries of early members of the human lineage including nearly complete skeletons and dozens of other 6 to 2 million year old fossils have been made recently. Also new methods are now available to extract behavioral and life history information from such fossils.
This meeting brings together field and analytical researchers to develop a synthetic account.
The proceedings of this meeting have been published as a special issue of Philosophical Transactions B.
Audio recordings of the meeting are now available below.
Professor Alan Walker FRS, Penn State University, USAOrganiser
Alan Walker is Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology at Penn State University. He is a palaeontologist who has carried our field and laboratory work on fossil and living primates with a view to extracting behaviour from fossils. He studied the locomotion of living lemurs in order to retrodict the locomotion of the recently extinct giant lemurs of Madagascar, the microscopic wear on teeth to infer the dietary habits of extinct primates and hominids, and has recently collaborated with colleagues to understand the relationship between the size of semicircular canals and locomotion in order to discover the locomotor adaptations of extinct species without recourse to information from the limb skeleton. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences and a MacArthur Fellow. His book The Wisdom of Bones (with Pat Shipman) won the Rhône-Poulenc Prize in 1997.
Professor Chris Stringer FRS, The Natural History Museum, UKIntroductions from Stephen Cox CVO, Royal Society, and from Professor Christopher Stringer FRS
Chris Stringer has worked at The Natural History Museum since 1973, and is now Research Leader in Human Origins and a Fellow of the Royal Society. His early research concentrated on the relationship of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, but through his work on the 'Out of Africa' theory of modern human origins, he now collaborates with archaeologists, dating specialists and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally. He has excavated at sites in Britain, Gibraltar, Morocco and Turkey, and is currently leading the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project in its third phase (AHOB3), which began in October 2009, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. AHOB is a major collaborative project to reconstruct the pattern of the earliest human colonisations of Britain and Europe. His recent books include "The Complete World of Human Evolution" (2005, with Peter Andrews), and "Homo britannicus" (2006).
Stephen Cox CVO, Royal SocietyIntroductions from Stephen Cox CVO, Royal Society, and from Professor Christopher Stringer FRS
Professor Michel Brunet, Collège de France, FranceIn Sahelian Africa (Chad) two new Mio-Pliocene Hominids enlighten 1871 Charles Darwin prediction
Michel Brunet spent most of his childhood in a farm in Poitou (South-West of France). He entered the Sorbonne in Paris where he studied Natural Sciences and paleontology. He defended his doctorate in paleontology in 1966. Then he went to the University of Poitiers to study Paleogen mammals and completed his Natural Sciences State doctorate in 1975 and became a tenured professor of paleontology in 1989 In 1976 his researches concentrated on hominid paleontology in Afghanistan and Iraq. Due to the dangerous political situation in both countries Michel Brunet turned his attention to Africa where he decided to explore western Africa for ape and hominid fossils.
His first surveys took place in Cameroon in 1984 and in Chad in 1993 when he received a research permit from the Chad government to conduct excavations in the Lake Chad basin, today the Djurab Desert. He founded the Mission Paléoanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne (M.P.F.T.) to research the origin, the evolution and the environments of early hominids. In 1995 Michel Brunet described a new hominid dated to 3.5 My, Australopithecus bahrelghazali the first Australopithecin known west of the Rift Valley. He nicknamed it "Abel" in honor to the memory of a Colleague and close friend who died during a field mission in Cameroon, In 2002 & 2005, he published the earliest hominid yet found (7 My): a nearly complete cranium, lower jaws and isolated teeth from Toros Menalla, Djurab desert (Northern Chad). The fossil, nicknamed Toumaï (meaning "hope of life" in the local Goran language), was classified in Nature by Michel Brunet as: Sahelanthropus tchadensis.
More recently he has also led field surveys and diggings for fossil mammals and primates in Libya, Egypt and Cameroon (with the Al Fateh University of Tripoli & Cairo University, and IRGM Yaounde).
Michel Brunet is Currently Professor of the College de France, Chaire de Paleontologie humaine, in Paris, and a Member of the Institut International de Paleoprimatologie et Paleontologie humaine: evolution et paleoenvironnements (I.P.H.E.P.) UMR CNRS 6046 of the University of Poitiers.
Professor William McGrew, University of Cambridge, UKIn search of the last common ancestor: new findings on wild chimpanzees
Bill McGrew graduated with a B.S. in zoology from the University of Oklahoma, a D.Phil. in psychology from the University of Oxford, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Stirling. He is now Professor of Evolutionary Primatology in the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Department of Biological Anthropology, at Cambridge. Since 1972, he has done field research on the ethology and ecology of wild chimpanzees, across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Tanzania, focussing on their elementary technology and material culture. He has written or edited six books, the most recent of which was The Cultured Chimpanzee: Reflections on Cultural Primatology (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and published more than 175 journal articles or book chapters. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received the Prix Delwart of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Belgium and the Osman Hill Medal of the Primate Society of Great Britain.
Dr Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, USAEvolutionary Tempo and Mode of Early Australopithecus: Insights from New Fossil Evidence
Yohannes Haile-Selassie is Curator and Head of the Department of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Cleveland. Ohio, USA. He received his MA in Anthropology and PhD in Integrative Biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995 and 2001, respectively. Haile-Selassie has enormous experience in field and laboratory research in paleoanthropology and paleontology. As a member of the Middle Awash project between 1991 and 2006, he has recovered important early hominin fossil specimens including a partial skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus (4.4 million-years old), the holotype cranium of Australopithecus garhi, (2.5 million years old), in addition to finding and naming the earliest hominin species Ardipithecus kadabba, (5.2 5.8 million years old).
Since 2004, Haile-Selassie has been leading a multidisciplinary paleontological research project conducting fieldwork in the Woranso-Mille area of the Central Afar region in Ethiopia. He has recovered over 45 fossil hominins associated with fossil remains of various vertebrate species from the time period between 3 and 4 million years ago. Haile-Selassie has published numerous papers on early hominins in addition to papers on various mammalian species from the late Miocene of the Middle Awash. He recently co-edited a book with Dr. Giday WorldeGabriel entitled "Ardipithecus kadabba: Late Miocene Evidence from the Middle Awash."
Professor William H Kimbel, Arizona State University, USA Australopithecus afarensis and the Mosaic Evolution of the Hominin Cranial Base
William H. Kimbel received his BA from Case Western Reserve University (1976) and his PhD from Kent State University (1986). He was Associate Curator and Head of Physical Anthropology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (1981-1985) before joining the Institute of Human Origins (IHO) in Berkeley, California. In 1997 IHO relocated to Arizona State University, where Kimbel is currently its Director and Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
Kimbel has conducted field and analytical research on Australopithecus and early Homo in Africa; Neandertals in the Middle East; the evolution of ape and human skull form and function; and the concepts of biological systematics as applied to paleoanthropological problems. Since 1990, he has co-directed research at the Hadar site in the Afar region of Ethiopia, which has produced more than 400 fossils of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis between 3.4 and 3.0 Ma.
Among his numerous publications, Kimbel is author (with Yoel Rak and Donald Johanson) of The Skull of Australopithecus afarensis (Oxford, 2004) and editor (with Lawrence Martin) of Species, Species Concepts and Primate Evolution (Plenum, 1993). He was Joint Editor of Journal of Human Evolution from 2003 to 2008.
In 2005, Kimbel elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Tim White, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USAArdipithecus
Ms Cinzia Fornai, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg A skeleton of Australopithecus and the two Australopithecus species of Sterkfontein
Cinzia Fornai obtained her first degree (Laurea) cum laude in Natural Sciences at the University "La Sapienza" of Rome in 2001, with a research thesis based on a morphometric study of proto-historic skeletal material from the Libyan Saharan Desert. She recently completed a MSc by research under the supervision of Professor R. J. Clarke at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, which was approved enthusiastically by examiners and recommended for distinction. Ms Fornai has elected to convert her MSc project to a PhD project focusing her research on the study of the dental morphology of South African hominid with particular interest to the matter of the hypothesis of the second Australopithecine species at Sterkfontein Member 4 and Makapansgat. She applies innovative techniques such as those pertaining to virtual anthropology, and geometric morphometrics among the other statistical tools.
C. Owen Lovejoy, Department of Anthropology, Kent State University, USAThe vertebral formula of the last common ancestor of humans and apes: A key to understanding human origins
Session 2 extended discussion session
Robin Crompton, Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Liverpool, UKArborealism, terrestrialism and bipedalism
Professor Christopher Dean, University College London, UKRetrieving chronological age from dental remains of early fossil hominins
Christopher Dean is in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at University College London. His background is in dental surgery, human biology and in human and comparative anatomy. His research focus is on the incremental microstructure of primate teeth with a view to retrieving a record of chronological age for dental development from the hominin fossil record. This in turn allows an estimate of the period of time individuals take to grow up, which provides important insights into the way early hominins lived their lives in comparison to modern humans. Christopher Dean has published extensively on topics related to his research and co-authored two textbooks An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy, with Leslie Aiello (1990), and Core Anatomy for Students with John Pegington (1995).
Professor Julia Lee-Thorp, University of Bradford, UK Implications of isotopic dietary and life history information archived in fossil hominin teeth
Julia Lee-Thorp (PhD. 1989, University of Cape Town) holds the Research Chair in Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford. She is Research Director of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences, and heads the Stable Light Isotope Laboratory. With a background in both chemistry and archaeology, she pioneered the application of stable light isotope biogeochemical techniques to fossil mammalian biological apatites, particularly enamel. Her research focusses on the reconstruction of past dietary ecology and environments and their impact on human evolutionary pathways, although she maintains interests in the isotopic systematics of modern ecosystems and in more recent African archaeology. Her current research is focused on developing methods that provide more detailed life-history information about individuals while reducing the invasive impact on fossils.
Dr Peter Ungar, University of Arkansas, USAMolar microwear textures of Australopithecus anamensis and A. afarensis
Peter Ungar obtained his B.A. in Anthropology at Binghamton University in 1985, and his Ph.D. in Anthropological Sciences at Stony Brook University in 1992. After postdoctoral fellowships in Cell Biology and Anatomy at Johns Hopkins University and in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy at Duke University, he joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas, where he now serves as professor and chairman of the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on reconstructing diets of early hominins and other fossil mammals through the studies of dental morphology and microwear.
Dr Sudhir Kumar, Arizona State University, USATimes and time ratios of great ape evolutionary branchings from molecular data
Dr Sudhir Kumar graduated with dual degrees in Engineering and Biological Sciences from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India in 1989. He received his Ph.D. in Genetics from Pennsylvania State University in the USA (1996), where he continued to conduct postdoctoral research until 1998. Soon after, he joined the Faculty in the Department of Biology at the Arizona State University (ASU). He is presently a Professor of Life Sciences and the Director of the Center for Evolutionary Functional Genomics in the Biodesign Institute at ASU. His group consists of interdisciplinary researchers and developers who collaborate to use informatics approaches and principles of molecular evolution to tackle long-standing problems in functional genomics and evolutionary biology. Their translational and fundamental investigations including the building of timescales of vertebrate evolution, the understanding of evolutionary patterns of genomes and species, the prediction of human disease-associated mutations, and large-scale synthetic analysis of gene expression patterns. Dr. Kumar has co-authored two books (Molecular Evolution and Phylogenetics; The TimeTree of Life) and multiple software packages and databases (MEGA; TimeTree.org; FlyExpress.net). He has published over 100 research articles in the fields of evolution, development, bioinformatics and genomics. He received an Innovation Award in Functional Genomics from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (2000) and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2008).
Professor Fred Spoor, University College London, UKHominin diversity in the middle Pliocene of eastern Africa: the maxilla of KNM-WT 40,000
Fred Spoor obtained his PhD from Utrecht University (The Netherlands) in 1993. He joined University College London in 1994, where he is now Professor of Evolutionary Anatomy. In his research associated with the Koobi Fora Research Project he does fieldwork in the Lake Turkana region of Kenya, and studies the hominin fossils recovered there since 1998. In addition, he continues to explore the evolution of the primate inner ear, originally the topic of his doctoral thesis.
Dr Philip Reno, Stanford University, USASexual dimorphism in Australopithecus afarensis
Philip Reno obtained his B.A. in Anthropology from Washington University, St. Louis and his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology and Biomedical Sciences from Kent State University. During his graduate career Philip worked at combining traditional morphological analysis and experimental developmental biology to study the evolution of hominid limb proportions and patterns of size dimorphism. After spending a semester as a research associate in the Department of Anatomy at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM), he moved to Stanford University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as a research associate in the lab of David Kingsley. There he is pursuing comparative genetics and molecular biology in search of the developmental basis for human specific trait evolution. He recently received an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award fellowship to fund study of the regulatory architecture of the androgen receptor locus. In 2011 he will join the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University.
Dr Carol V Ward, University of Missouri, USAAnterior dental evolution in the Australopithecus anamensis-afarensis lineage
Carol Ward obtained her B.S. in Anthropology and Zoology from the University of Michigan in 1986, and her Ph.D. in Functional Anatomy and Evolution from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1991. She joined the University of Missouri as Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Anatomy in 1991 where she worked until 2006 when she joined the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences full time and earned the rank of Professor in 2007. Dr. Ward studies the evolution of apes and hominins from the Miocene through the early Pleistocene, with an emphasis on the locomotor skeleton, especially the pelvis and vertebrae in Miocene apes. She studies cranial and postcranial remains of early Australopithecus as well as later hominin postcranial anatomy and variation in the early Pleistocene of Kenya. Dr. Ward's research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and LSB Leakey Foundation. Dr. Ward is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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