by David Begun

» Recent and Ongoing Research

"The research in my lab is focused on the evolution of the lineages of great apes and humans. My students and I have concentrated on certain time periods in hominoid evolution most relevant to understanding the origins of new kinds of hominoids.

proconsul vs great ape "With my collaborators from Europe and Turkey we have been able to describe evidence of the origins of the great apes in Europe and Western Asia, the spread and diversification of great apes across Eurasia, leading to the origin of the ancestors of orangutans in Asia and the African ape-human lineage in Africa. My students and I combine evidence from functional anatomy, to reconstruct behavior, phylogeny, to reconstruct evolutionary relationships, and biogeography, to reconstruct patterns of migration. Together these approaches allow us to propose patterns of adaptation and migration of great ape/human ancestors in response to ecological changes.

"Currently we are working on the hypothesis that the African ape/human lineage arose from a European or Western Asian ancestor that moved into Africa about 7-9 million years ago, probably in response to global climate changes. The same changes forced the ancestors of the orangutan south into the tropics from China at about the same time. This hypothesis has taken our field work focus most recently to Turkey, which has a rich record of several lineages of fossil great apes from all the relevant time periods, as well as a spectacular record of climate change and mammal evolution during the Miocene, when apes evolved.

"I am also intrigued by the evolution of intelligence in apes and humans, and am working on the analysis of endocasts (brain case casts) of fossil apes and early humans. For me, flexibility in behavioral responses to ecological challenges, made possible by anatomical adaptations of the jaws, teeth and limbs, but also by cognitive developments made possible by the evolution of the brain, is the key to understanding the evolution of modern great apes and humans."


» Sample Material

dryopithecus A Dryopithecus brancoi female.

Related article here: D.R. Begun (2003). Planet of the Apes. Scientific American. 289(2): 74-83.

rud200 RUD200, a Dryopithecus cranium.

Related article here: Kordos, L. and D.R. Begun (2001). A new cranium of Dryopithecus from Rudabánya, Hungary. J Hum Evol. 41: 689-700.


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» External Research Awards (since 1998)
» Principle Fieldwork Collaborators

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dept of anthropology