Hominid Paleobiology

two students in the CASHP Hominid Paleobiology lab in SEH.

The Hominid Paleobiology Laboratory focuses on increasing our understanding of human evolution by exploring new sources of evidence, analyzing the existing fossil record and using the comparative method in innovative ways. Most of the Hominid Paleobiology Lab research is conducted in collaborating laboratories in Finland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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Research Interests

Extant apes and modern humans are relics of a diverse radiation of apes from the Miocene epoch (23 to 5.3 million years ago). One of these — still unidentified — fossil apes was the common ancestor of chimpanzees, bonobos and modern humans. Research in the Hominid Paleobiology Lab focuses on improving our ability to recognize hominin species and genera and reconstruct higher primate phylogeny using evidence from the fossil record. 

Recent research projects include: 

  • Investigating the molecular control of regions prone to homoplasy (e.g., teeth, cranial base or another characteristic shared by a set of species but not present in their common ancestor)
  • Using dental histology to determine if apparently similar morphology at the macrostructural level has the same microstructural basis
  • Employing micro-CT technology to image the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) and compare its performance for taxonomy and systematics to that of the outer enamel surface
  • Examining the comparative anatomy of soft tissues to determine whether hard tissues are especially prone to homoplasy

Lab interests also include understanding the comparative context of species diversity and adaptive shifts within the hominin clade, improving our understanding of the evolution and comparative context of hominin dental morphology, the molecular evolution of the nuclear receptors and assessing patterns of molecular sequence change to identify candidate genes, primate comparative anatomy and promoting access to data and information about museum collections of higher primates.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation, The Leakey Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Mathers Foundation and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.


Select Publications

Faith, J.T. Du, A., Behrensmeyer, A.K., Davies, B., Patterson, D.P., Rowan, J. and Wood, B. (2021) Rethinking the ecological drivers of hominin evolution. Trends Ecol. Evol. S0169-5347(21)00125-7.

Wood, B.A. and Patterson, D.B. (2020) Paranthropus through the looking glass. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 117(38): 23202-23204. 

Balolia, K. L., Jakeman,  E. C., Massey, J.S., Groves,  C, and Wood, B. (2020) Mandibular corpus shape is a taxonomic indicator in extant hominids. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop. 172(1):25-40. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.24030

Bilsborough Alan. and Wood, Bernard. (2020) Evolutionary diversity and adaptation in early Homo. In Landscapes of Human Evolution: Contributions in honor of John Gowlett. J. Cole, J. McNabb, M. Grove, and R. Hosfield (eds). Pp. 29-41 Oxford: Archaeopress.

Du, A., Rowan, J., Alemseged, Z., Wood, B., and Wang, S. (2020) Statistical estimates of hominin origination and extinction dates: a case study examining the Australopithecus anamensis-afarensis lineage. J. Hum. Evol. 138:102688.

Du, Andrew. and Wood, Bernard. (2020) Brain size evolution in the hominin clade. In Landscapes of Human Evolution: Contributions in honor of John Gowlett. J. Cole, J. McNabb, M. Grove, and R. Hosfield (eds). Pp. 9-17 Oxford: Archaeopress.

Patterson, David, B., Braun, David R., Allen, Kayla, Barr, W. Andrew, Behrensmeyer, Anna K.,.  Biernat, Maryse, Lehmann, Sophie B., Maddox, Tom, Manthi, Fredrick K., Merritt, Stephen R., Morris, Sarah E., O’Brien, Kaedan, Reeves, Jonathan S., Wood, Bernard A., Bobe, René. (2019) Comparative isotopic evidence from East Turkana suggests a dietary shift between early Homo and Homo erectus. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 3:1048–1056. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0916-0

See a full list of Dr. Bernard Wood's publications.


Lab Researchers

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Nicole Bonaccorsi

Masters Student

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Daniel Biggs

Masters Student

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Taylor Mitchell

Masters Student




Research Fellows