Paleoanthropologists have wondered for a long time how and why humans evolved molars that emerge at these specific ages and why those ages are so delayed compared to living apes. New research solves this mystery.
Dr. Patrick Gathogo is a geologist and research associate at Stony Brook University who is developing a new approach to geochronology that will extend the capability of the standard methods for dating hominid sites.
The invention of clothing and the development of the tools needed to create it, are milestones in the story of humanity. A new study, supported in part by The Leakey Foundation, provides strong evidence for the manufacture of clothing as far back as 120,000 years ago.
Did all Neanderthals need or use fire? Giulia Gallo is a PhD candidate at UC Davis whose research is focused on Neanderthal fire use and maintenance. Her Leakey Foundation-supported project will help us to understand the different ways Neanderthals used fire.
In 1933 a mysterious fossil skull was discovered near Harbin City in the Heilongjiang province of north-eastern China. Despite being nearly perfectly preserved – with square eye sockets, thick brow ridges and large teeth – nobody could work out exactly what it was. The skull is much bigger than that of Homo sapiens and other human species – and its brain size is similar to that of our own species. Historical events left it without a secure place of origin or date, until today.
Evolution can be a controversial and sensitive topic in America. According to a 2019 survey from the Pew Research Center, 36% of American adults say they do not accept evolution. How can scientists and educators help shift public understanding and acceptance of human evolution?
We are pleased to announce the 24 recipients of our spring 2021 Leakey Foundation Research Grants. Their diverse research projects include studies of resource use by early human ancestors, the impacts of early life adversity on baboons, the origins of primate pair-bonding, investigations of ancient climates and diets, as well as several new hominin fossil excavations.
Since 1978, the prestigious Baldwin Fellowship has worked to build scientific capacity in the regions where fossils and wild primates are found. We are proud to introduce the outstanding spring 2021 cohort of new and returning Baldwin Fellows.
Young orangutans must acquire a vast set of skills and knowledge as they grow. They do this through several years of observational social learning and practice. New research shows that growing female and male orangutans pay attention to different types of individuals.
An interdisciplinary group of researchers have shown how early humans used fire to shape the environments to suit their needs. In doing so, they transformed the landscape around them in ways still visible today.
Archaeologists have learned a lot about our ancestors by rummaging through their garbage piles. One common kitchen scrap in Africa– shells of ostrich eggs–is now helping unscramble the mystery of when these changes took place, providing a timeline for some of the earliest Homo sapiens who settled down to utilize marine food resources along the South African coast more than 100,000 years ago.
An international team of researchers has identified the earliest known human burial in Africa at Panga ya Saidi, a cave near the Kenyan coast. The remains of a 2.5 to 3 year-old child were found deliberately buried in a shallow grave directly under the sheltered overhang of the cave. The child was laid carefully on their side, in a curled up position, likely wrapped in a shroud with a pillow under the child's head.
High-tech analysis has revealed intriguing new information about "Little Foot", a 3.67 million-year-old Australopithecus fossil from South Africa. New Leakey Foundation-supported research on the upper body of famed fossil opens a window to a pivotal period in human evolution.
Leakey Foundation grantee Lucy Timbrell aims to contribute to new knowledge about how early modern populations were structured across the landscape. Read more about her research, her science communication projects, and the ways her work has been impacted by the global pandemic.
Dr. Tesla Monson is a Leakey Foundation grant recipient whose research focuses on understanding how the skull has evolved. Her Leakey Foundation-supported research project will use data from museum collections to investigate cranial variation in colobine monkeys, a sub-family of monkeys that is not well-studied.
Leakey Foundation grantee Nina Jablonski is one of the "small but mighty population of people whose careers have been ignited and sustained by Leakey Foundation support, and whose research, in turn, has shed light on previously opaque mysteries of human and primate evolution."
A new Leakey Foundation-supported study published Feb. 24 in the journal Royal Society Open Science documents the earliest-known fossil evidence of primates. This discovery illustrates the initial radiation of primates 66 million years ago, following the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs and led to the rise of mammals.
On Saturday, February 13, The Leakey Foundation is hosting a free online event that will explore how scientific ideas are tested and examine why some of Darwin’s ideas have withstood more than a century of scrutiny, while others have not.
For centuries, humans have blamed the moon for our moods, accidents and even natural disasters. New Leakey Foundation-supported research indicates that our planet's celestial companion impacts something else entirely–our sleep.
Since our beginning in 1968, our mission has been powered by small, yet meaningful, donations from people who are passionate about scientific research and educational outreach. We invite you to join our growing group of dedicated monthly donors, known as Bedrock Donors
The fear that predators inspire in their prey is a powerful force that can shape ecosystems and maintain biodiversity. These ecological cascades are often mediated by behavior – for instance, fear can drive where prey species choose to move and forage on the landscape. Yet, some of the most basic questions about this important species interaction are obscured in studies involving primates.
In this episode of Origin Stories, Daniel Lieberman, author of the new book Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding, explains the powerful instincts that cause us to avoid exercise even though we know it’s good for us. This episode will help you think about exercise in a whole new way.
From funding research that helps us understand what it means to be human, to helping young scientists achieve their dreams of pursuing a graduate degree, to protecting endangered primates that stand at the brink of extinction, your support made a world of difference this year.
Harmonie Klein studies chimpanzees in the Loango National Park in Gabon. This park is a mosaic of different habitat types ranging from coastal lagoons and mangrove swamps, to forests and open savannah.
Leakey Foundation grantee Andrea Baden studies how human pressures effect Madagascar's endemic lemurs. Her research finds that the ruffed lemur is being disproportionately impacted by human activities. These findings will be key to helping save them.
Leakey Foundation-supported researchers studying close relatives of baboons known as geladas have shown for the first time that females of this species suddenly hurry up and mature when a new male enters the picture. Their findings are reported in the journal Current Biology on November 5th.
Leakey Foundation grantee Irene Smail is using information from fossil primates to model how closely-related primate species may have interacted with each other in the past. Her research will shed light on why our species survived while others went extinct.
People thrive all across the globe, at every temperature, altitude and landscape. How did human beings become so successful at adapting to whatever environment we wind up in? Human origins researchers like me are interested in how this quintessential human trait, adaptability, evolved.
A 17 million-year-old whale fossil discovered in the 1970s is the impetus for new research led by Leakey Foundation grantee Isaiah Nengo. This research project takes a unique approach to uncovering the course of mammalian evolution in East Africa.
Jeff Spear's research involves traveling back and forth between Airbnbs and museum basements to collect the large samples needed for a study of this kind. Although perhaps not as glamorous as field sites, museums can offer a treasure trove of data and are an essential resource for studying evolution.
Shasta Webb is a 2020 Leakey Foundation grantee whose research focuses on primate flexibility in dynamic environments. Her field work is on hold due to COVID-19 so she is focused on analyzing her large microbiome dataset.
It is with immense sadness that we share news of the passing of Ann Getty. She died on Monday, September 14, 2020. She was 79 years old. Ann joined The Leakey Foundation in 1973 as a Fellow with her husband Gordon Getty who later became the Chairman of the Board. Together they helped the Foundation grow to become the world class funding institution and educational outreach organization that it is today.
While advances in medicine and nutrition in the last 200 years have added years to human lifespans, a new Leakey Foundation-supported study suggests there could be a more ancient explanation for why humans live longer than our closest relatives do.
A team of researchers, including Leakey Foundation grantees, discovered human and other animal footprints embedded on an ancient lake surface in the Nefud Desert in Saudi Arabia that are around 120,000 years old. These findings represent the earliest evidence for Homo sapiens on the Arabian Peninsula, and demonstrates the importance of Arabia for understanding human prehistory.
Strong social ties are a key driver of cooperation in many species and are associated with adaptive benefits in several of them, including humans, feral horses and dolphins. Although such bonds are widely observed, it is not always known why any two particular animals become friends (just as in humans).
A 13-million-year-old fossil unearthed in northern India comes from a newly discovered ape, the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day gibbon. The discovery was made by Leakey Foundation grantee Christopher C. Gilbert, Hunter College. It fills a major void in the ape fossil record and provides important new evidence about when the ancestors of today’s gibbon migrated to Asia from Africa.
Hailay Reda is a two-time Leakey Foundation Baldwin Fellow from Ethiopia. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Oregon. He has also been awarded a Leakey Foundation research grant for his project entitled "Reconstructing the paleoecology of Woranso-Mille hominins using cercopithecids."
Mark your calendar for the return of The Leakey Foundation's Speaker Series on Human Origins. Our first virtual lecture will be held on Tuesday, October 20 with Leakey Foundation grantee Irene Gallego Romero of the University of Melbourne.
Boxgrove in Sussex, England, is an iconic, old stone age site. This is where the oldest human remains in Britain have been discovered – fossils of Homo heidelbergensis. Part of an exceptionally preserved 26km-wide ancient landscape of stone, it provides a virtually untouched record of early humans almost half a million years ago.
Leakey Foundation grantee Stephanie Fox grew up surrounded by examples of strong female friendships. A few years ago, she learned that those kinds of friendships aren't as common as she thought. Now her Leakey Foundation-supported research investigates the biological roots of female friendship.
A study funded in part by The Leakey Foundation investigated the links between parasite infection and the gut microbiome. Researchers discovered that the presence of parasites was strongly associated with the overall composition of the microbiome.
It is with profound sadness that I share the news of Barry Sterling's death on July 26th at his home in Sebastopol, California. He was 90 years old.
Barry was elected to The Leakey Foundation Board of Trustees in 1991 and received the honorary title of Life Trustee in 2007.
On July 22, The Leakey Foundation hosted a free webinar with global change biologist and science communication educator Sara ElShafie. The recording of “Science Through Visual Stories” is now available!
Ancient humans deliberately collected perforated shells in order to string them together as beads, according to a study supported in part by The Leakey Foundation and published July 8, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
The Leakey Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of the 2020 Franklin Mosher Baldwin Memorial Fellowships. These Fellowships are awarded to graduate students from countries where there are limited opportunities for advanced training and education in fields of research related to the study of human origins.
Leakey Foundation grantee Sileshi Semaw from the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), is coauthor of a paper published in the Journal of Human Evolution that describes two newly discovered primate species.
This month's featured video is from biological anthropologist Zaneta Thayer of Dartmouth College. Her 2017 talk at the American Museum of Natural History addresses how trauma, poverty, and racial discrimination create health inequalities.
The largest collection of footprints from the human fossil record in Africa is described in Scientific Reports this week. The findings, which further our understanding of human life during the Late Pleistocene period, suggest a division of labor in ancient human communities.
This month's featured video is Dr. Pardis Sabeti's talk on "Evolutionary Forces in Humans and Pathogens" from our 2016 Survival Symposium. This symposium focused on evolution and the many challenges facing the survival of our species.
New research by Leakey Foundation Scientific Executive Committee Member Joan Silk suggests that humans willingly incur costs to punish selfishness in others, and our societies are likely more cooperative as a result.
As teachers scramble to move courses online during the coronavirus pandemic, The Leakey Foundation understands the urgent need to offer free, high quality educational tools. A challenge of this magnitude requires creative solutions to meet the demand, and that is why the Foundation is focusing on projects that address the critical situation facing educators today.
A new discovery, funded in part by The Leakey Foundation, helps date the transatlantic migration of primates to about 34 million years ago, around the time a major drop in sea level would have made the ocean voyage shorter.
Dozens of non-human primate species, including our closest relatives, are at risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and are vulnerable to COVID-19, which could have devastating impacts on populations of primates that are already endangered.
Deep in the remote forests of Indonesian Borneo lives a society of hunter-gatherers who speak a language never before shared with outsiders. Until now. The latest episode of Origin Stories tells the story of the Cave Punan people and their urgent plea for help to save their forest home.
Nearly 2 million years ago, three hominin genera - Australopithecus, Paranthropus and the earliest Homo erectus lineage - lived as contemporaries in the karst landscape of what is now South Africa, according to a new geochronological evaluation of the hominin fossil-rich Drimolen Paleocave complex.
Science is a collaborative endeavor and long-term projects require the work of multiple generations of researchers. At the 2019 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, The Leakey Foundation set out to document the academic "families" of biological anthropology. All of the portraits are now available on our website.
An important advancement in human evolution studies has been achieved after scientists retrieved the oldest human genetic data set from an 800,000-year-old tooth belonging to the hominin species Homo antecessor.
Harmonie Klein is a PhD candidate studying hunting and meat sharing among wild chimpanzees in Gabon. This community of chimpanzees is newly habituated to human presence and Klein is learning a lot about their cooperative behaviors.
Chimps are unusual among mammals in that daughters, not sons, typically pick up their roots at puberty and move away from their families. But in Gombe National Park, some chimpanzee females stay put instead of moving out.
What makes humans such "adaptable" and flexible creatures, especially when it comes to what we eat? Primates, in general, can survive on a wide variety of foods, but there are also a lot of species with a range of really specialized diets, like those focused on insects, leaves, or fruit, and all of these foods have different challenges when it comes to digesting them. Mareike Janiak's research is focused on understanding how the species in these different dietary niches have adapted to digesting their foods.
New research on an Australopithecus fossil called "Little Foot" helps us better understand how these ancient hominins lived. The findings suggest that this specimen could climb and move in trees as well as on the ground.
After careful consideration, The Leakey Foundation has made the decision to cancel and reschedule our spring Speaker Series events in Houston and San Francisco. If you have purchased a ticket, please contact the museum you purchased your tickets from.
At a moment when society feels dangerously polarized, fragmented and unstable, the Leakey Foundation Survival Symposium “Our Tribal Nature: Tribalism, Politics, and Evolution” offers a forum for understanding our human urge to form alliances. Videos from this event are now available to watch and share.
On February 27, The Leakey Foundation hosted a free online workshop called "Science Through Story" with science communication expert Sara ElShafie. This workshop was designed to help scientists tell compelling stories about their research. It was part of a new Leakey Foundation initiative that provides career development support to our grant recipients.
An international research team led by scientists from the U.S. and Spain, supported in part by The Leakey Foundation, has discovered a nearly complete cranium of an early human ancestor, estimated to about 1.5 million years ago, and a partial cranium dated to about 1.26 million years ago, from the Gona study area in Ethiopia’s Afar State.
The Leakey Foundation is offering a free online "Science Through Story" workshop to help Leakey Foundation grantees tell compelling stories about their research. This workshop will be held at 10 am Pacific on February 27, 2020.
New discoveries and new methods in paleoanthropology are helping to refine the human story. Just 20 years ago, no one could have imagined what scientists now know about humanity’s deep past, let alone how much knowledge could be extracted from a thimble of dirt, a scrape of dental plaque, or satellites in space.
Human beings used to be defined as “the tool-maker” species. But the uniqueness of this description was challenged in the 1960s when Dr. Jane Goodall discovered that chimpanzees will pick and modify grass stems to use to collect termites. Her observations called into question homo sapiens‘ very place in the world. Since then scientists’ knowledge of animal tool use has expanded exponentially.
The Leakey Foundation is proud to announce the Joan Cogswell Donner Field School Scholarship which will provide grants of up to $2,000 to students from countries where there are abundant scientific resources but limited resources for academic development.
In this episode of our Origin Stories podcast, Leakey Foundation grantee Bence Viola tells the story of the Denisovans. This group of archaic humans was first discovered through a tiny fragment of a pinky bone found in a Siberian cave. Ancient DNA inside the fossil hid a previously unknown history of humankind. Now new research is uncovering more information about the mysterious Denisovans.
In this installment of our "Fossil Finders" series, Leakey Foundation Fellow Carol Broderick brings us the story of Heselon Mukiri who made several important discoveries and worked with Louis Leakey since the beginning of Leakey's career.
Global climate change could cause Africa’s Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical lake and source of the Nile River, to dry up in the next 500 years, according to new findings funded in part by The Leakey Foundation. Even more imminent, the White Nile — one of the two main tributaries of the Nile — could lose its source waters in just a decade.
Leakey Foundation grantee Kelly Ostrofsky spent the last several months working at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, getting to know the mountain gorillas that live in the Ruhija sector of the forest.
Will primates move to track changes in their habitats, or might they modify their behavior, or even adapt, in place? If they do move, why? What elements of their habitats are actually changing that make it more or less preferable? These questions frame Leakey Foundation grantee Andrew Bernard's dissertation research in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
Leakey Foundation grantee Kelly Ostrofsky studies how wild apes move and climb in their natural habitats. As our closest living relatives, these apes provide an important comparative context for understanding how our ancestors may have moved and climbed.
A study published on October 8, 2019, in the journal Genome Biology finds that despite our close genetic relationship to apes, the human gut microbiome is more similar to that of baboons than it is to that of apes like chimpanzees.
Leakey Foundation grantee Amy Scott is studying orangutans in Indonesia in order to better understand how sexual conflict shapes orangutan reproductive strategies. The role of sexual conflict is often overlooked in models of human evolution, but the centrality of sexual conflict in shaping the reproductive strategies of both male and female orangutans, one of our closest living relatives, emphasizes the importance of considering how sexual conflict has shaped human evolution.
The Leakey Foundation's "Speaker Series on Human Origins" brings world-class speakers to give fascinating public lectures at museums and other institutions around the United States. The fall 2019 series will feature the latest discoveries and developments in paleoanthropology and human evolution research, including current research on Denisovans and Neanderthals, the importance of children and grandmothers in understanding human origins, and a celebration of the 45th anniversary of the discovery of "Lucy."
If you are in New York, the best way to join us for "Our Tribal Nature: Tribalism, Politics, and Evolution" is to purchase one of the few remaining tickets and watch it live at the Morgan Library. If you can't make it in person, you can watch via livestream on our YouTube channel or Facebook page!
Join us on September 19 at the Morgan Library in New York to examine the evolutionary origins and function of tribalism, our social transition from tribes to states, and the role tribal identity plays in our increasingly divided world.
At a moment when society feels dangerously polarized, fragmented and unstable, the symposium “Our Tribal Nature: Tribalism, Politics, and Evolution” offers a forum for understanding our human urge to form alliances.
Leakey Foundation grantee Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie and his team of researchers have discovered a "remarkably complete" cranium of a 3.8-million-year-old early human ancestor from the Woranso-Mille paleontological site, located in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
Rusinga Island, Kenya, is a fossil site that preserves everything from the smallest rodents to the largest elephants, from insects and snails to leaves and fruits. Leakey Foundation grantee Lauren Michel sends a report on some surprising recent discoveries.
The Leakey Foundation launched a fundraising campaign in honor of Louis Leakey's 116th birthday on August 7, 2019. All donations up to $5,000 were quadruple-matched thanks to Leakey Foundation Fellow Mike Smith and two anonymous supporters. We are thrilled to report that thanks to your generous donations, we have raised a total of $29,552 for research and educational outreach!
The spinal column is a critical region for understanding the evolution of bipedal walking because the joints between the vertebrae are involved in back movements and the formation of the lumbar lordosis, a curve in the lower back that allows humans to walk upright. New Leakey Foundation-supported research shows that early hominins grew their spinal columns like modern humans.
Leakey Foundation grantee Stephanie Musgrave has been in the field with the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project in the Republic of the Congo where she studies how the chimpanzees there make and use tools to gather termites and other resources such as ants, honey, seeds, and marrow.
Darwin is a capuchin monkey who was born during a time of great prosperity for her group. She is the granddaughter of alpha male Pablo and the venerable alpha female Chupacabra. Darwin had a happy and relatively carefree childhood but her life since then has had its challenges.
Researchers from the National Museums of Kenya, University of Arkansas, University of Missouri and Duke University have announced the discovery of a tiny monkey that lived in Kenya 4.2 million years ago.
The region now holding the Sahara Desert was once underwater, in striking contrast to the present-day arid environment. This dramatic difference in climate over time is recorded in the rock and fossil record of West Africa during a time range that extends through the Cretaceous-Paleogene (KPg) boundary.
On July 17, 1959, Mary Leakey left her camp and went out to search the layers of sediment in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, as she and her husband Louis Leakey had done for almost 30 years. Their primary goal was to find fossils of our human relatives (hominins), and as hot, dusty, backbreaking, painstakingly slow and what many friends and fellow scientists might call impossible as that goal seemed, they were determined to reach it.
The Leakey Foundation is proud to announce the Francis H. Brown African Scholarship. This scholarship fund was established to honor the life and work of Dr. Francis H. Brown, a geologist whose study of the Omo-Turkana basin helped build the timeline of human evolution.
With support from The Leakey Foundation, scientists have observed bonobos in the Congo basin foraging in swamps for aquatic herbs rich in iodine. Iodine is a critical nutrient for brain development and higher cognitive abilities, and this new research may explain how the nutritional needs of prehistoric humans in the region were met.
The archaeological site of 'Ein Qashish in northern Israel was a place of repeated Neanderthal occupation and use during the Middle Paleolithic, according to a study funded in part by The Leakey Foundation and published June 26, 2019, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ravid Ekshtain of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues.
Languages that involve "clicks" are relatively rare worldwide but are spoken by several groups in Africa. The Khoisan language family includes a handful of these click languages, spoken by hunter-gatherer groups in southern and eastern Africa. But the grouping of these populations into a single language family has been controversial, with some linguists convinced that a few of the languages are too different to be classified together. A genomic study of 50 African populations, funded in part by The Leakey Foundation, adds some clarity to the relationships between these click-speaking groups and many others.
In the new film “When Whales Walked: Journeys in Deep Time,” Leakey Foundation grantee and Wake Forest University anthropology professor Ellen Miller stands on a rocky hillside in northern Kenya carefully uncovering 16 million-year-old fossil elephant teeth. Miller is one of several scientists from around the world featured in the two-hour film, created in a first-ever partnership between PBS and Smithsonian Channel.
Most of human genetic diversity is found in Sub-Saharan Africa -- and among Sub-Saharan Africans. The most genetically diverse people are the KhoeSan populations of Southern Africa. With the help of The Leakey Foundation, I went to the Cederberg Mountains in the Western Cape of South Africa to expand what we know about KhoeSan genetic diversity.
Kamoya Kimeu may be the most famous “Fossil Finder” in paleoanthropology, but he was not alone when he made many of his remarkable discoveries. With him was a group of men who came to be known as the “Hominid Gang.” Walking and surveying the often inhospitable rocky landscape in East Africa, these men became outstanding and important fossil finders.
Bipedality, the ability to walk upright on two legs, is a hallmark of human evolution. Many primates can stand up and walk around for short periods of time, but only humans use this posture for their primary mode of locomotion.
Not all paleolithic research happens in the field! In fact, nowadays a lot of it happens in laboratories hidden away in university buildings and research institutes. Leakey Foundation grantee Frido Welker studies ancient proteins preserved in archaeological bone in order to learn more about human evolution.
"Nearly all mammals have the same number of cervical vertebrae, no matter how long or short their necks are--humans, giraffes, mice, whales, and platypuses all have exactly seven cervical vertebrae," said Jeff Spear, a doctoral student from New York University, and part of a team whose Leakey Foundation supported research explored why this characteristic has stayed the same through time and across species.
Leakey Foundation grantee Kevin Hatala has recently returned from fieldwork near Nariokotome, in northwestern Kenya, where his research team did surveys and preliminary excavations of sites that preserve 1.5 million-year-old fossil footprints.
May 14 is the final day for discounted 'early bird' tickets for our upcoming lecture, "Homo naledi and the Chamber of Secrets" with Dr. Jeremy DeSilva. The lecture will be held at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on May 21 at 6:30 pm.
Small forest antelope in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have more to worry about than being eaten by leopards. In at least one portion of the forest, Weyn's duikers are the preferred meat consumed by bonobos, according to new research supported by The Leakey Foundation.
Ancient DNA research has revolutionized the study of human evolution, but some time periods and geographic regions have not yet yielded usable DNA. Leakey Foundation grantee Frido Welker is a postdoctoral researcher who is testing new methodologies for breaking down and extracting ancient proteins.
Leakey Foundation grantee Chris Gilbert has returned from a successful field season in the Indian Lower Siwaliks. He and his team revisited known fossil localities, discovered new ones, collected detailed geological measurements, and found an additional specimen of the fossil ape Sivapithecus indicus.
A lot of our understanding of aging comes from studying human societies, which share food extensively and care for the elderly, things that wild apes don’t do. So what does it mean to be an aging ape in the wild, who has to fend and forage for themselves?
A new member of the human family has been found in a cave in the Philippines, researchers report today in the journal Nature. The new species, called Homo luzonensis is named after Luzon Island, where the more than 50,000-year-old fossils were found during excavations at Callao Cave.
Over 100 people are seeking a Leakey Foundation grant right now, and almost half of those people are asking for help to complete their dissertation research. You can help the next generation of scholars by giving generously today!
The teeth of a new fossil monkey, unearthed in the badlands of northwest Kenya, help fill a 6-million-year void in Old World monkey evolution, according to a study by U.S. and Kenyan scientists published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and funded in part by The Leakey Foundation.
Sofya Dolotovskaya spent 14 months studying elusive titi monkeys in the Peruvian Amazon. Her Leakey Foundation funded research investigates aspects of pair-living in socially monogamous titi monkeys to see if social monogamy translates into genetic monogamy.
In this never-before-released archival lecture from 1980, Maasai warrior, author, and Leakey Foundation grantee Tepilit Ole Saitoti discusses the Maasai culture and the challenges facing the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania.
Chimpanzees have a more elaborate and diversified material culture than any other nonhuman primate. Researchers have discovered new behaviors in a wild population of chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These behaviors include the use of tools to harvest ants and stingless bees.
Upright walking is a trait that defines our human lineage. New research funded in part by The Leakey Foundation provides evidence for greater reliance on terrestrial bipedalism by a human ancestor than previously suggested in the ancient fossil record.
Leakey Foundation grantee Deming Yang has recently returned from his data collection trips to the Turkana Basin in northern Kenya and Salt Lake City, Utah. One of the questions his dissertation research project hopes to address is how the paleoenvironments in the Turkana Basin varied across space and time.
How, when, and why did pair-bonding and monogamy evolve in our human lineage? Leakey Foundation grantee Alba García de la Chica is a PhD candidate from the University of Barcelona. She was awarded a Leakey Foundation Research Grant in fall 2017 to study the mechanisms that allow the maintenance of pair bonds and monogamy in owl monkeys.
We know that some modern human genomes contain fragments of DNA from an ancient population of humans called Denisovans, the remains of which have been found at only one site, a cave in what is now Siberia. Two recent papers published in Nature give us a firmer understanding of when these little-known archaic hominins lived.
An extinct branch of hominins called the Denisovans is one of the most elusive members of our extended family tree: So far there have been only four individuals found in a single Siberian cave. Now researchers have done the painstaking work of dating the fossils, sediments, and artifacts found in that famous cave, including what might be the first evidence for crafts made by our long-lost cousins.
Our microbiome, the complex community of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other microorganisms in and on our bodies, reflects the way we live. Most microbiome analyses have focused on people living in developed nations, but in the last several years, scientists have begun to investigate whether people in non-industrialized societies possess distinctly different microbiomes and, if so, what factors shape those differences.
Now, 10 years later after the discovery of Malapa, full descriptions of the Australopithecus sediba fossil material, as well as raw measurement data and surface scans of the fossils which are available at Morphosource.org, have been published in a special issue of the open access journal, PaleoAnthropology.
Less than two years after the first report of wild chimpanzees in Uganda dying as a result of a human “common cold” virus, a new study has identified two other respiratory viruses of human origin in chimpanzee groups in the same forest.
When did early humans first arrive in the Mediterranean? New archaeological evidence published in the journal Science and funded in part by The Leakey Foundation indicates their presence in North Africa at least 2.4 million years ago.
Teeth are a really useful indicator of past environments. This is possible because teeth have biological rhythms and key events get locked inside them. These faithful internal clocks run night and day, year after year, and include daily growth lines and a marked line formed at birth.
Four generous sponsors are matching all donations, up to a total of $10,000, until midnight on December 31. All donations will be matched 4:1 so your impact on human origins research and outreach will be quadrupled!
A growing body of evidence shows that those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are more likely to die prematurely than those at the top. The pattern isn't unique to humans – across many social animals, the lower an individual's social status, the worse its health.
You probably think of new technologies as electronics you can carry in a pocket or wear on a wrist. But some of the most profound technological innovations in human evolution have been made out of stone. For most of the time that humans have been on Earth, we’ve chipped stone into useful shapes to make tools for all kinds of work.
Leakey Foundation grantee Rachel Bynoe is a paleolithic archaeologist researching the underwater archaeology of the North Sea in Happisburgh where recent discoveries have radically changed our understanding of the timing and nature of early hominin occupation in Britain.
It is rare to have the opportunity to visit the sites that define our human history around the world. Recently, Rosa Moll, a Leakey Foundation Baldwin Fellow from South Africa visited the site of Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, famous for the oldest modern Homo sapiens fossils in the world.
The Leakey Foundation's award-winning Origin Stories podcast returns for a third season on November 15 with eight all-new audio documentaries about how we became human. In addition, this season will feature archival material from the Foundation's 50-year archive of lectures from brilliant scientists such as Dian Fossey, Mary Leakey, Margaret Mead, and Carl Sagan. The season three trailer is out now.
Jonathan Reeves is a Leakey Foundation grantee from the George Washington University who is studying how the environment shaped our movement over the course of our evolutionary history by looking at the stone tools Pleistocene people carried and discarded.
Rachel Bynoe is a paleolithic archaeologist researching the submerged archaeology of the southern North Sea. She received a Leakey Foundation research grant in 2017 to explore an underwater archaeological site off the coast of Happisburgh, England.
The Leakey Foundation has partnered with the Chicago Council on Science and Technology, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and Columbia College Chicago to bring primate behavioral ecologist John Mitani to Chicago for two exciting events about chimpanzee behavior.
After returning from her final field season in Amboseli, Abigale Koppa went to work at the Nutritional and Isotopic Ecology Lab (NIEL) at the University of Colorado Boulder to analyze plant samples she collected in Kenya.
Titi monkeys are a textbook example of a “monogamous” primate. They live in apparently perfect families: mother, father, and several offspring. But are these families really that perfect, or do mates cheat on each other? That’s the main question of Leakey Foundation grantee Sofya Dolotovskaya's research project.
All species of gorillas are critically endangered according to the Red List maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but that does not mean there’s no hope for these animals.
The Leakey Foundation is excited to welcome Dr. Todd Braje as the new Irvine Chair of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences' Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability. This position was previously held by Leakey Foundation grantee Dr. Zeray Alemseged (2008-2017) and Leakey Foundation grantee and Scientific Executive Committee Member Dr. Nina Jablonski (1995-1998).
Leakey Foundation grantee Kate Detwiler from Florida Atlantic University is the first to document that two genetically distinct species of guenon monkeys inhabiting Gombe National Park in Tanzania, Africa, have been successfully mating and producing hybrid offspring for hundreds maybe even thousands of years.
The vast majority of lemur species are on the edge of extinction, experts warn. But not every lemur species faces a grim future. A study funded in part by The Leakey Foundation has shown that there may be as many as 1.3 million white-fronted brown lemurs still in the wild, and mouse lemurs may number more than 2 million.
As biologists explore the variation across the genomes of living people, they’ve found evidence of evolution at work. Particular variants of genes increase or decrease in populations through time. Sometimes this happens by chance. Other times these changes in frequency result from the gene’s helping or hindering individuals’ survival.
Together with their sister group the Neanderthals, Denisovans are the closest extinct relatives of currently living humans. Now researchers have discovered a tiny fossil from an individual who is the offspring of a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.
Discovered more than half a century ago in Kenya and sitting in museum storage ever since, the roughly 20-million-year-old fossil Propotto leakeyi was long classified as a fruit bat. Now, it's helping researchers rethink the early evolution of lemurs, distant primate cousins of humans that today are only found on the island of Madagascar, some 250 miles off the eastern coast of Africa.
An international team, including Leakey Foundation grantees and researchers at Stony Brook University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, has found the earliest and largest monumental cemetery in eastern Africa.
There are at least 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries around the world. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies within which they live.
White-faced capuchin monkeys in Panama’s Coiba National Park habitually use hammer-and-anvil stones to break hermit crab shells, snail shells, coconuts and other food items, according to research conducted by Leakey Foundation grantees. This is the first report of habitual stone-tool use by Cebus monkeys.
On June 6th, Dr. Erin Vogel gave a lecture titled "Primate Palate: Orangutans, Obesity, and Human Evolution" as part of a joint production by the American Museum of Natural History and The Leakey Foundation.
Primates are fascinating. They are intelligent, live in complex societies and are a vital part of the ecosystem. Lemurs, lorises, galagos, tarsiers, monkeys, and apes are our closest biological relatives and just like them, humans are also primates. However, while the human population has spread to all corners of the earth, many of our closest relatives are under serious threat.
The Leakey Foundation's Origin Stories podcast has won the Prix Marulić International Audio Festival in the documentary category for “What They Left Behind” by producer Neil Sandell and editor Julia Barton.
The Leakey Foundation "Discovering Us" 50th Anniversary Gala included a portrait studio that captured elegant photos of our party guests. Please scroll through the gallery and share your photos on social media!
How and when did music begin? How does the discovery of 40,000-year-old bone flutes impact our understanding of music within the cognitive revolution? This one-hour session will focus on these important questions through a discussion of the discovery and context of Paleolithic bone flutes found in 2008 at Hohle Fels, a cave in southern Germany.
Corey Jamason, SFCM chair of Historical Performance, will… more »
Most paleontologists track their careers in terms of funding and expedition cycles, searching for fossils in finite windows of time and often spending months, even years waiting to return to promising sites. It is rare that someone is able to devote his or her life to searching for fossils, yet one man has done exactly that. That man is Kamoya Kimeu.
Researchers conducting archaeological fieldwork in the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia have discovered a fossilized finger bone of an early member of our species, Homo sapiens. The discovery is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the immediately adjacent Levant, and indicates that early dispersals into Eurasia were more expansive than previously thought.
Most mammals rely on scent rather than sight. Look at a dog’s eyes, for example: they’re usually on the sides of its face, not close together and forward-facing like ours. Having eyes on the side is good for creating a broad field of vision, but bad for depth perception and accurately judging distances in front.
The course of dinosaur evolution in Africa has largely remained a mystery. But in the Sahara Desert of Egypt, scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that helps fill in some gaps in the fossil record of dinosaurs in Africa: Mansourasaurus shahinae, a school-bus-length, long-necked plant-eater with bony plates embedded in its skin.
A jawbone complete with teeth recently discovered by at Israel's Misliya cave has now been dated to 177,000-194,000 years ago. The finding indicates that modern humans were present in the Levant at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought.
New fossil finds over the past few years have been forcing anthropologists to reexamine our evolutionary path to becoming human. Now the earliest modern human fossil ever found outside the continent of Africa is pushing back the date for when our ancestors left Africa.
Save the Date for The Leakey Foundation's 50th anniversary gala! The celebration will take place on Thursday, May 3, 2018, at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco and we invite you to join us to celebrate 50 years of exploring, discovering, and sharing the human story.
Francis H. Brown was a beloved member of The Leakey Foundation family and co-chair of our Scientific Executive Committee. Frank Brown was a geologist who made enormous contributions to our collective understanding of human evolution. He was known for his curiosity, kindness, and generosity.
New moms need social support, and mother chimpanzees are no exception. So much so that female chimps that lack supportive friends and family wait longer to start having babies, according to researchers who have combed through the records of Jane Goodall's famous Gombe chimpanzees.
On October 12, 2017, The Leakey Foundation in partnership with the Chicago Council of Science and Technology (C2ST) presented “Alesi: The Life, Death, and Discovery of an Ancestor” with speaker Isaiah Nengo.
The recent discovery of a 13 million-year-old fossil infant ape skull has offered a rare glimpse of what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The fossil, nicknamed… more »
Just recently, the news media announced the discovery of a fossil ape called Alesi. This remarkable fossil was found in Kenya, and it’s from a time period where there’s a big blank spot in the fossil record of our family tree.
Origin Stories is The Leakey Foundation’s podcast about how we became human. In six new episodes, Origin Stories takes you behind the scenes of some of the most exciting new discoveries in the study of human origins and profiles scientists whose work sheds light on some of the answers to the big questions about human evolution.
Research findings on 'Alesi,' a newly discovered 13 million-year-old fossil ape species, were published this week in the journal Nature and the story has been widely carried in the press. The research team behind the Nyanzapithecus alesi discovery has collaborated to put together this list of questions and answers.
How do trauma, poverty, and racial discrimination influence our health? What about our evolutionary history causes our bodies to respond in this way? Biological anthropologist Zaneta Thayer explores the biological mechanisms through which early life stress influences biology and health later on. This lecture took place at the American Museum of Natural History on April 5, 2017.
For more than 3 million years, Selam lay silent and still. Eager to tell her story, the almost perfect fossil skeleton of a 2 1/2 year-old toddler was discovered at Dikika, Ethiopia -- and she had a lot to say.
How did humans get to be so smart, and when did this happen? To untangle this question, we need to know more about the intelligence of our human ancestors who lived 1.8 million years ago. It was at this point in time that a new type of stone tool hit the scene and the human brain nearly doubled in size.
How has evolution shaped gender, our favorite sports teams, and everyday life in general? Those are a just few of the topics that The Leakey Foundation's new Science Speakeasy event series will set off to explore. Science Speakeasy mixes science with storytelling, hands-on experiments, drinks and lively conversation.
On April 22nd, The Leakey Foundation staff will be joining the March For Science in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and New Orleans. Want to join us? You can meet up with our Leakey Foundation group in San Francisco , or download our sign and march with us virtually!
When I stood in the dimly lit overhang at Abri de Cap Blanc in the Dordogne region of France and my eyes beheld the carved horse in sandstone (15,000ya) I was reminded that the capabilities to imagine and create lie deep in our species’ DNA.
The Leakey Foundation is hosting a new series of short science talks from great minds. These events are for ages 21 and up and feature fascinating talks, interactive activities, a full bar, delicious food, and plenty of time for asking questions and discussing science with your fellow attendees. Help us choose the best name for this fun science event series.
A cache of exquisitely preserved bones, found in a coal mine in the state of Gujarat, India, appear to be the most primitive primate bones yet discovered, according to an analysis led by researchers from The Johns Hopkins University and Des Moines University, funded in part by a grant from The Leakey Foundation.
Running. Some people love it, getting in the zone and enjoying that “runner’s high”. Some people tolerate it as a necessary way to stay fit. Others, and I admit I’m in this camp, can’t see the appeal, unless they’re being chased by some terrifying beast or a swarm of bees….
Come learn about the fascinating lives of female chimpanzees with Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST) and The Leakey Foundation.
Female apes are often overshadowed by their larger, more boisterous male counterparts. The subtlety of social behavior in female chimpanzees belies a complex set of strategies that allow them to navigate the costs and benefits of group life.
By combining decades… more »
If “Lucy” wasn’t alone, who else was in her neighborhood? Key fossil discoveries over the last few decades in Africa indicate that multiple early human ancestor species lived at the same time more than 3 million years ago. A new review of fossil evidence from the last few decades examines four identified hominin species that co-existed between 3.8 and 3.3 million years ago during the… more »
When fluctuating climates in the Ice Age altered habitats, modern humans may have adapted their diets in a different way than Neanderthals, according to a study funded in part by The Leakey Foundation and published on April 27, 2016, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE .
The Neanderthal lineage survived for hundreds of thousands of years despite the severe temperature fluctuations of the Ice Age. The reasons
By poring over the fossilized skulls of ancient wildebeest-like animals unearthed on Kenya’s Rusinga Island, researchers have discovered that the little-known hoofed mammals had a very unusual, trumpet-like nasal passage similar only to the nasal crests of lambeosaurine hadrosaur dinosaurs.
This episode of Origin Stories is about what it takes to document the daily lives of chimpanzees, what we’ve learned, and how to handle all the data that’s been collected during the longest running study of any animal in the wild. In the 55 years since Louis Leakey sent Jane Goodall to the Gombe forest to study chimpanzees, we’ve learned a lot about the lives and behavior of these wonderful… more »
Marina Davila-Ross was awarded a grant from The Leakey Foundation in the spring of 2015 for her research project entitled “Systematically testing facial thermal imaging as a most sensitive and reliable novel technology to directly compare subtle emotion changes in apes and humans.” Her work on facial expressions and laughter in chimpanzees was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.… more »
A new relative joins “Lucy” on the human family tree. An international team of scientists led by seven-time Leakey Foundation grantee Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has discovered a 3.3 to 3.5 million-year-old new hominin species (more closely related to humans than to chimps). Upper and lower jaw fossils recovered from the Woranso-Mille area… more »
New research funded in part by The Leakey Foundation shows that chacma baboons within a troop spend more of their time with baboons that have similar characteristics to themselves: associating with those of a similar age, dominance rank and even personality type such as boldness. This is known as homophily, or ‘love of the same’.… more »
By Susana Carvalho, George Washington University Chimpanzees are wily enough to adapt in some ways when people encroach on their turf. Kimberley Hockings, CC BY-NC-ND
In the mid 20th century, when paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey sent three pioneering women to study great apes in their natural habitats, the Earth’s wilderness was still untouched in many places. Jane Goodall went to Gombe in Tanzania… more »
Every good story starts at the beginning. In the first episode of Origin Stories we talk with Carol Ward about one of the first things that distinguished our ancestors from the other primates, the weird way we walk around. Carol Ward is Curator’s Professor and Director of Anatomical Sciences in the integrative anatomy program at the University of Missouri, where she directs the Ward Laboratory. Her… more »
Origin Stories is our new podcast about what it means to be human and the science behind what we know about ourselves. We'll have interviews and stories from scientists about their research on a vast and fascinating range of topics. We'll learn about the biology and the millions of years of evolution that shape the way we look and act today.
In this charming animated interview from the PBS Series Blank on Blank, Jane Goodall discusses her early dreams of studying animals in the wild, and how meeting Louis Leakey in Kenya made it possible for her to start her pioneering chimpanzee research.… more »
A close up view of the fossil just steps from where it was discovered by Chalachew Seyoum. Photo by Brian Villmoare.
A fossil lower jaw found in the Afar Region of Ethiopia pushes back evidence for the human genus Homo to 2.8 million years ago. The jaw with five teeth was found by Chalachew Seyoum, a Baldwin Fellow and Arizona State University paleoanthropology graduate student from Ethiopia.… more »
By Jeremy DeSilva of Boston University. Jeremy will discuss the question “Why walk on two legs?” along with Brian Richmond during a SciCafe at the American Museum of Natural History on April 1, 2015. This article is an excellent introduction to the pros and cons of bipedalism. Humans are weird. We are mammals, yet we have very little body hair. We are primates, yet unlike most primates, we are… more »
Our understanding of human evolution has grown exponentially since Darwin’s time. This week marks the 206th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, so we’re sharing a Darwin-related Leakey Foundation lecture from our archives. In this lecture, recorded in 2009 at the Field Museum in Chicago, Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University discusses the evolution and dysevolution… more »
Leakey Foundation grantees Israel Hershkovitz and Ofer Marder led an international team of archaeologists who discovered a 55,000 year old cranium in Manot Cave in Israel. Their discovery was described last week in the journal Nature.
Photo courtesy of : Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority
A key event in human evolution was the expansion of modern humans of African origin across Eurasia, replacing… more »
It is with profound sadness that we share with you the passing of Brad Goodhart, the devoted husband of the Foundation’s Grants Officer Paddy Moore-Goodhart.
Brad Goodhart and Paddy Moore-Goodhart on one of their many adventures.
Brad had an enduring love for Africa’s people and nature, having led over 100 tours of East Africa over the past 35 years. He was a Board Member of the African Orphans… more »