Evolution of the hominin head and neck

I am broadly interested in the role of locomotion, posture, growth, and development on the evolution of the hominin head and neck.

For my doctoral dissertation, I am studying integration within and between the head and neck in humans, chimpanzees, and a variety of mammalian bipedal and non-bipedal taxa. Humans display reduced integration within the head relative to other hominoids, and this has been suggested as a characteristic that facilitated change to the brain and masticatory apparatus of hominins generally and of genus Homo specifically. I hypothesize that the massive changes associated with bipedalism and with its adaptation to long-distance, endurance travel resulted in reduced integration within the head and between the head and neck in hominins. The broader goal is to elucidate the mechanisms of evolution of hominin diversity and hominin cranial form, and to understand how restructuring of the bauplan affects subsequent evolution.

This research is supported by the Global Research Initiative, Margaret and Herman Sokol Travel/Research Award and the Antonina S. Ranieri International Scholars Fund at New York University, and by the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Gr. 9110).

I also have a small ongoing project investigating the three-dimensional shape of the second cervical vertebra (the axis) and its relationship to locomotion, posture, and body size. This vertebra is unique in acting as a pivot that allows rotation of the head, and serves as a bridge between the specialized first cervical vertebra (C1/atlas) and more ‘standard’ cervical vertebrae (C3-C7). Preliminary results suggest that most variation in C2 morphology is due to size variation, with humans as a clear outlier.

Peer-reviewed publications

  • In review. Villamil CI. Locomotion and basicranial anatomy in primates and marsupials. J Hum Evol.
  • In prep. Villamil CI. Integration of the head and neck in hominoids.

Conference presentations

  • 2017. Villamil CIFrom the top of your head: phenotypic integration in the head and neck. Fed Am Soc Exp Biol J. [invited symposium abstract]
  • 2017. Villamil CINew insights into locomotion and posture in hominoid evolution: integration of the skull and cervical vertebrae. Am J Phys Anthropol. [podium abstract]
  • 2016. Villamil CIOrthogrady and foramen magnum orientation: interpreting the fossil record. PaleoAnthropology. [podium abstract]
  • 2016. Villamil CI. Cranial dimensions as predictors of phenotypic integration in the primate basicranium: implications for hominin evolution. Am J Phys Anthropol. [podium abstract]
  • 2015. Villamil CIFunction and morphology in the hominid cervical spine: postural influences on integration. PaleoAnthropology. [abstract] [PDF]
  • 2015. Villamil CI. The influence of cranial and postcranial integration on the evolution of hominin basicranial morphology. Am J Phys Anthropol 153(S60):313. [abstract] [PDF]

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