Morphological Consequences of Hybridization in Primate and Human Evolution

Keywords: Hybridisation, virtual anthropology, admixture, skeletal morphology, Neanderthal, Rhesus macaque.

Research Outline

This is a National Science Foundation funded, collaborative project led by Professor Tim Weaver (University of California, Davis, USA).  We use hybrid macaques to better understand the consequences of hybridisation on the primate skeleton and to develop criteria for detecting morphological evidence of hybridisation in the fossil record.  Hybridisation between species of Homo (e.g., Neanderthals and H. sapiens) is a very current issue in Evolutionary Anthropology, yet despite methodological advances in analysing ancient genetic material, we are still far from understanding the importance of admixture in determining morphology and from being able to recognise hybrids in the fossil record.  Interpreting the effect of hybridisation is critical for understanding the context and processes of human evolution and the origin of our species.

Image showing data collection workflow: processing CT data from live (sedated) macaque, virtually segmenting skeleton, collecting landmark data from the pelvis, and analysing pelvic shape variation between individuals using geometric morphometric methods.

I am currently leading an investigation into the relationship between pelvic morphology and admixture proportion.  Pelvic morphology is of particular interest in the discussion of hominin hybridisation due to the pelvis’ complex shape, interacting functional constraints and the very strong selective pressure of successful birth.  In this project I use a suite of virtual anthropological methods, including CT data, virtual modelling and geometric morphometrics.  The project’s collaborators are committed to sharing the data collected for this project – CT scans of hybrid macaques can be accessed through the MorphoSource database, via the link below and teaching materials are available, and further open source data will be made available as possible, via the project webpages below.



Other Projects from the Palaeontology Group

Footprints in the sand

X-rays, 3D animation and human locomotion

We use biplanar X-ray, 3D animation and computer simulation methods to understand the complex interactions between foot and substrate through which footprints are created. These innovative methods provide a novel toolkit for using a rapidly expanding record of hominin footprints to evaluate prominent hypotheses regarding the evolution of human bipedalism

Click here to find out more…

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