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Mission - Evolutionary processes

3-D model of a skullOne of our main interests is the decipherment of the evolutionary history of humans and the phylogenetic relationships among various hominin species. To these ends we use traditional descriptive comparative anatomy and cladistic methodology, as well as geometric morphometrics and a broad comparative approach. We focus on two time periods: the early evolution of the human lineage and its differentiation from the African great apes; and the evolution of the Neanderthals and modern humans in the latter part of human evolutionary history. We are particularly interested in the relationships among Middle Pleistocene humans across continents and in the ‘peopling’ processes that led to the expansion of modern humans in the latter part of the Pleistocene.

We also seek to understand how morphology is influenced by different evolutionary and developmental processes, and to what extent it might reflect population history / phylogeny or adaptation. In order to answer these questions, we are exploring the relationship between anatomy and genetics / climatic factors, as well as modeling the effects of evolutionary processes such as genetic drift or selection on different aspects of morphology. We also study the developmental integration of different anatomical regions in humans and great apes, with the aim of assessing the usefulness of morphological characters in phylogenetic reconstructions. Finally, we are exploring the effect of cultural processes on the shaping of evolutionary events in the course of human evolution.