Exploring Macro-evolutionary Trends in Human and Primate Evolution

Living primates are an extraordinarily diverse array of charismatic species. There are approximately 522 distinct species that range in size from majestic silverback gorillas at 200kg, to minuscule mouse lemurs that weigh as little as 30g. But where did it all begin? The temporal, geographic, and phylogenetic origins of primates are all topics that have ignited considerable debate, and yet we have no clear answers to date. In a similar way, the current view of the evolutionary and biogeographical routes that led to our own species, Homo sapiens, is still largely composed of scientific conjecture despite decades of intense research. Consensus is lacking concerning the relationships between modern humans and other extinct hominins, as well as factors influencing their historical geographical movement, anatomy and behaviour. This presentation explores a series of examples, employing novel phylogenetic comparative approaches, to quantitatively address some of these questions about primate and human evolution.