Although modern humans are now a global species, our ancestral lineage evolved for much of the past 7 million years in Africa. Understanding how and why our lineage evolved in Africa relies on developing as much data as possible from the fossil record scattered across the continent. This project ties together cutting-edge, interdisciplinary approaches to analysing fossil mammal species that evolved alongside the human lineage - from other primates to predatory carnivores, diverse radiations of antelopes, and iconic African species like giraffe and elephant. Let alone fully extinct lineages that used to occupy the same habitats as our early ancestors like sabretooth cats and cheetah-like hyaenas. By harnessing methods ranging from discovering new fossil specimens from active excavations in South Africa to digitally reconstructing extinct species,and geochemical analyses of teeth to 3D analyses of skull shape using CT scanning, this project will establish unparalleled data for interpreting the context of human evolution on the African landscape. This synthetic approach to reconstructing the diet, locomotion, habitats and ecosystem structure across mammal lineages provides a critical advance in our ability to interpret the factors that adaptations to changing environments, drove species to extinction, and led to the development of new lineages and species like our own.
Comparative mammalian anatomy, African mammal palaeontology, evolution, South Africa, hominin and primate palaeoecology, taphonomy, comparative methods, imaging studies
Masters by research
Top-up scholarship funding available