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Fred Spoor

With a background in mammalian palaeontology and anatomy, I study the fossil skulls of human ancestors and their relatives (jointly known as ‘hominins’). Most of this research focuses on earlier periods of our evolutionary past. The size and shape of the human skull reflect what makes us unique among mammals; an unprecedented enlargement of the brain, reduction of our teeth and jaws, and a change to upright posture and bipedal gait. Hence, studying how, when and why these changes in skull morphology occurred provides valuable information about our evolutionary history over the last six million years or more. From a broader biological perspective my research deals with questions about the relationship between form and function, the developmental (ontogenetic) processes underlying morphological change, and how ancestral form constrains the way a species can adapt to changing external influences.

Core projects of my research (see research page):

  • Cranio-dental evolution of African Plio-Pleistocene hominins
  • Comparative and functional morphology of the bony labyrinth

In addition to my current post at the MPI in Leipzig, I also hold a part-time position at University College London (UK) as Professor of Evolutionary Anatomy, and am a research associate of the Koobi Fora Research Project and the National Museums of Kenya. Having been Joint Editor of the Journal of Human Evolution (1999 - 2005) I am now a member of its editorial board, and also serve on the Editorial Advisory Panel of Nature Communications.


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