which reveals when, and in what order, dental morphological changes took place.
“I was inspired by the recent advances in development genetics, and wanted to find a way to integrate knowledge of genetic mechanisms into my paleontology research. I study how
In the field in Ethiopia, Leslea Hlusko collects fossil bones exposed by erosion. (photo © 2004 Middle Awash Research Project)
dental traits are inherited within baboon families, and then apply this new understanding of the genetics of small-scale variation to a study of the fossil record.
“I am amazed by the conservation of genetic mechanisms across diverse groups of animals mice, humans, baboons all seem to make teeth using the same genetic pathways. From this, we can assume that ancestors of these organisms used similar mechanisms as well. Thereby, we can interpret fossilized anatomies with a much better understanding of the genetic and non-genetic mechanisms that determine them.”
Hlusko received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1992 and her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Penn State in 2000. From 2000 through 2004, she held an Assistant Professorship with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.