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Tracy Kivell

Tracy Kivell is a palaeoanthropologist who studies the functional morphology of the wrist and hand in extant and fossil primates. Her research focuses on extant and fossil hominoids, including fossil hominins, to further our understanding of the evolution of human bipedalism and hand use throughout our evolutionary history. She aims to understand functional morphology of this skeletal area through analyses of ontogeny, trabecular and cortical bone structure and the biomechanics of primate locomotion. Some of her current projects include:

  1. Functional morphology of fossil hominin hands, including Homo naledi and Australopithecus sediba
  2. Trabecular and cortical bone structure in extant and fossil primate hands to better understandlocomotion and tool-use in early hominins
  3. Biomechanical analyses of terrestrial and arboreal locomotion in apes

Tracy collaborates on these projects and others with several researchers both inside and outside of MPI-EVA, including Matthew Skinner (Kent), Dieter Pahr (Vienna University of Technology), Evie Vereecke (Leuven) Daniel Schmitt and Steve Churchill (Duke University), Lee Berger (University of the Witswatersrand) and David Begun (University of Toronto).

Tracy obtained her PhD at the University of Toronto on the ontogenetic morphology the hominoid midcarpal joint, focusing on Miocene hominoid wrist morphology and the origin of human bipedalism. Before coming to MPI-EVA, Tracy was a postdoctoral Research Associate in the Duke University Animal Locomotion Lab, studying primate locomotion through analyses of pressure, force and kinematics with Drs Daniel Schmitt and Roshna Wunderlich. She is currently PI on a European Research Council Starting Grant entitled “The evolution of the human hand: grasping trees and tools” and Director of the Animal Postcranial Evolution (APE) Lab at the University of Kent.

Tracy has participated in field excavations of Miocene sites in Hungary as well as Plio-Pleistocene and Holocene sites in South Africa.


Department of Human Evolution
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig