Evolutionary (or Biological) Anthropology

Evolutionary (or Biological) Anthropology is the study of humans and non-human primates in their biological, evolutionary, and demographic dimensions. As in Biology generally, the central, unifying theory of evolutionary anthropology is evolutionary theory. While many of the research programs of our faculty are directly informed by evolutionary theory (paleoanthropology, bioarcheology, human biology and genetics, health, growth, development and demography), evolutionary anthropologists also apply their expertise to more applied disciplines such as crime scene investigation (forensic anthropology) and development policy studies involving the nutrition, growth and health in living populations. In all cases, evolutionary anthropologists apply their unique perspective of the evolutionary biology of humans to answer questions about our past and to inform policy in current human biology and behaviour.

The graduate and undergraduate curricula provide access to related science fields, including human biology and anatomy. Faculty currently pursue field research in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, South America, North America, and Madagascar. The work of evolutionary anthropology faculty in the department is diverse, with foci on paleoanthropology (David Begun, Michael Schillaci, Bence Viola), human and primate evolution (David Begun, Shawn Lehman, Susan Pfeiffer, Esteban Parra, Michael Schillaci, Daniel Sellen, Mary Silcox), primate evolutionary ecology (Shawn Lehman,  Michael Schillaci, Daniel Sellen, Julie Teichroeb), forensic anthropology (Susan Pfeiffer, Tracy Rogers), molecular anthropology (Esteban Parra, Michael Schillaci) and the nutrition and health of past and present human populations (Tracey Galloway, Esteban Parra, Susan Pfeiffer, Larry Sawchuck, Daniel Sellen, Michael Schillaci). Recent research projects have been funded by NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, CRC, NIH, CIDA, and WHO. Faculty are active in numerous university, provincial, national and international scientific societies, research collaborations, training initiatives, editorial boards and grant agency review panels, and students have access to a wealth of professional networking opportunities .

Evolutionary/Biological anthropology students may focus their research on human genetics, on the behaviour of non-human primates, on primate and especially human palaeontology, on Medical Anthropology, or on evidence in human skeletal remains for disease, nutrition, trauma and human variation.

Evolutionary (or Biological) Anthropology Faculty

David Begun is a paleoanthropologist whose research is on great ape and human origins. His research foci include hominoid systematics and functional anatomy and the biogeography of hominoid origins. He has carried out fieldwork projects in Spain, Hungary, Turkey and Romania.

Tracey Galloway focuses her research program on the assessment of chronic disease risk and the reduction of the impact of chronic disease through applied and health policy research to reduce health inequities and promote health system improvement in northern Indigenous populations.

Shawn Lehman is a primatologist who conducts research on the conservation biogeography and evolutionary ecology of lemurs in Madagascar and monkeys in South America. The main goal of his research program is to determine how forest loss, forest fragmentation, and edge effects influence primate ecology. He directs the Tropical Research in Edge Effects (TREE) program.

Esteban Parra is a molecular anthropologist interested in the application of genetic markers in the fields of human evolution, epidemiology and forensic science. A main goal of his research is to characterize genetic variation within and between human populations, and to study its role in adaptation and disease. He directs the laboratory of molecular anthropology located at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus.

Susan Pfeiffer conducts research on skeletal biology, aging, origin of modern humans, foraging adaptations, and forensic anthropology. She is interested in reconstructing the conditions of life from characteristics of bones and teeth, including research at the tissue level. Palaeo-nutrition and diet have been of particular interest to her in research that demonstrates significant relationships among people’s diet and body sizes, growth rates, health, and habitual behaviour patterns.

Tracy Rogers specializes in skeletal biology with an emphasis on forensic anthropology. She has worked on forensic cases for the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police, B.C. Coroner’s Office, and RCMP. Her research focuses on human skeletal variability, including sexual dimorphism, age-related changes, population variation, and individualization, and application of GIS to biological anthropology.

Larry Sawchuck is interested in health and disease in urban populations, especially Gibraltar; reconstructing health among 19th century populations through historical demography.

Michael Schillaci is a primate zoologist studying growth variability in Asian macaques. Other research interests include primate morphological variation, primate hybridization, and bidirectional disease transmission between human and nonhuman primates. Dr. Schillaci also has strong interests in public health research, and quantitative methods.

Dan Sellen conducts biocultural research on the evolutionary biology, nutritional ecology, and global health consequences of young child feeding and care-giving practices.

Mary Silcox researches Primate evolution: fossil evidence for primate origins, anatomy and evolution of close relatives to primates; Brain evolution in primates and other mammals and reconstruction of paleoecology using compositional analysis, functional morphology, and dental microwear analysis.

Julie Teichroeb is a primate behavioural ecologist who primarily examines the evolution of sociality, focusing on the determinants of social organization and the costs and benefits of group-living in Ghana and Uganda.

Bence Viola is a paleoanthropologist focusing on the biological and cultural dynamics of the contacts between different hominin groups in the late Pleistocene. To better understand these interactions,  he uses a combination of morphological, genetic and archaeological approaches, concentrating on Central / Northern Asia and Central Europe, which are both areas where contacts between modern and archaic humans are thought to have taken place.

Evolutionary (or Biological) Anthropology on the Internet