Zeresenay Alemseged

Research Summary
I am interested in human evolution in general, and specifically in the events surrounding the origin and diversification of early hominins in the Mio-Pliocene and how these processes were shaped by underlying environmental and ecological factors. The big questions my research seeks to explore concern the evolutionary history of the earliest human ancestors subsequent to the human-ape split about 7 million years ago. I attempt to discern phylogenetic relationships and patterns of species diversity among early hominins by deciphering their anatomical, behavioral, locomotor, and dietary adaptations. Yet, the paleobiology of these early hominins cannot be fully understood without comprehending the paleoenvironmental and paleoecological context within which these evolutionary processes took place. Hence the need to understand their biotic and abiotic environments by studying the associated fauna, which is another important aspect of my research. I am also interested in the evolutionary history of the non-human primates (cercopithecidae) that are often encountered in Plio-Pleistocene hominin sites. To accomplish these goals I undertake the following: Fieldwork: Discovery of hominin and nonhuman fossils by leading an international and multidisciplinary field project at Plio-Pleistocene sites; Laboratory work: Preparation, curation, and analysis of original extant and fossil primates, including hominin remains, at various museums around the world; Analytical work: Application of recent imaging and visualization techniques to investigate internal and external fossil anatomies; Faunal study: Fossil faunal analysis to explore environmental and ecological factors affecting human and primate evolution. Check out Zeray's Ted talk entitled "The Search for Humanity's Roots." http://www.ted.com/talks/zeresenay_alemseged_looks_for_humanity_s_roots
  • Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, B.SC GEOLOGY 07/1990
  • Cavilam de Vichy International School of Language, Vichy, France, DIP FRENCH 08/1993
  • University of Montpellier II, Montpellier, France, M.SC PALEONTOLOGY 09/1994
  • University of Paris VI and National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France, PH.D Paleoanthropology 06/1998
Biosciences Graduate Program Association
Awards & Honors
  • 1993 - 1998 Full Scholarship Centre National des Oeuvres Universitaires
  • 2004 - Emerging Explorer National Geographic Society
  • 2011 - fellow California Academy of Sciences
  • 2018 - Donald N. Pritzker Professorship THE UNIVERSITY of CHICAGO
  1. Alemseged Z, Wynn JG, Geraads D, Reed D, Andrew Barr W, Bobe R, McPherron SP, Deino A, Alene M, J Sier M, Roman D, Mohan J. Fossils from Mille-Logya, Afar, Ethiopia, elucidate the link between Pliocene environmental changes and Homo origins. Nat Commun. 2020 May 19; 11(1):2480. View in: PubMed

  2. Gunz P, Neubauer S, Falk D, Tafforeau P, Le Cabec A, Smith TM, Kimbel WH, Spoor F, Alemseged Z. Australopithecus afarensis endocasts suggest ape-like brain organization and prolonged brain growth. Sci Adv. 2020 04; 6(14):eaaz4729. View in: PubMed

  3. Lockey AL, Alemseged Z, Hublin JJ, Skinner MM. Maxillary molar enamel thickness of Plio-Pleistocene hominins. J Hum Evol. 2020 May; 142:102731. View in: PubMed

  4. Du A, Rowan J, Wang SC, Wood BA, Alemseged Z. Statistical estimates of hominin origination and extinction dates: A case study examining the Australopithecus anamensis-afarensis lineage. J Hum Evol. 2020 Jan; 138:102688. View in: PubMed

  5. Nalley TK, Scott JE, Ward CV, Alemseged Z. Comparative morphology and ontogeny of the thoracolumbar transition in great apes, humans, and fossil hominins. J Hum Evol. 2019 09; 134:102632. View in: PubMed

  6. Du A, Alemseged Z. Temporal evidence shows Australopithecus sediba is unlikely to be the ancestor of Homo. Sci Adv. 2019 05; 5(5):eaav9038. View in: PubMed

  7. Martinez FI, Capelli C, Ferreira da Silva MJ, Aldeias V, Alemseged Z, Archer W, Bamford M, Biro D, Bobe R, Braun DR, Habermann JM, Lüdecke T, Madiquida H, Mathe J, Negash E, Paulo LM, Pinto M, Stalmans M, Tátá F, Carvalho S. A missing piece of the Papio puzzle: Gorongosa baboon phenostructure and intrageneric relationships. J Hum Evol. 2019 05; 130:1-20. View in: PubMed

  8. Alemseged Z, Njau J, Pobiner B, Ndiema E. Connecting palaeoscientists in eastern Africa and the wider world. Nat Ecol Evol. 2019 03; 3(3):330-331. View in: PubMed

  9. Du A, Alemseged Z. Diversity analysis of Plio-Pleistocene large mammal communities in the Omo-Turkana Basin, eastern Africa. J Hum Evol. 2018 11; 124:25-39. View in: PubMed

  10. DeSilva JM, Gill CM, Prang TC, Bredella MA, Alemseged Z. A nearly complete foot from Dikika, Ethiopia and its implications for the ontogeny and function of Australopithecus afarensis. Sci Adv. 2018 07; 4(7):eaar7723. View in: PubMed

  11. Ward CV, Nalley TK, Spoor F, Tafforeau P, Alemseged Z. Thoracic vertebral count and thoracolumbar transition in Australopithecus afarensis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 06 06; 114(23):6000-6004. View in: PubMed

  12. Wynn JG, Reed KE, Sponheimer M, Kimbel WH, Alemseged Z, Bedaso ZK, Campisano CJ. Dietary flexibility of Australopithecus afarensis in the face of paleoecological change during the middle Pliocene: Faunal evidence from Hadar, Ethiopia. J Hum Evol. 2016 10; 99:93-106. View in: PubMed

  13. Young NM, Capellini TD, Roach NT, Alemseged Z. Reply to Almécija: A new direction for reconstructing our last common ancestor with chimpanzees. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Feb 23; 113(8):E945. View in: PubMed

  14. Young NM, Capellini TD, Roach NT, Alemseged Z. Reply to Melillo: Woranso-Mille is consistent with an australopithecine shoulder intermediate between African apes and Homo. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Dec 29; 112(52):E7160. View in: PubMed

  15. Reed D, Barr WA, Mcpherron SP, Bobe R, Geraads D, Wynn JG, Alemseged Z. Digital data collection in paleoanthropology. Evol Anthropol. 2015 Nov-Dec; 24(6):238-49. View in: PubMed

  16. Alemseged Z. Stable isotopes serving as a checkpoint. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 06; 112(40):12232-3. View in: PubMed

  17. Young NM, Capellini TD, Roach NT, Alemseged Z. Fossil hominin shoulders support an African ape-like last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Sep 22; 112(38):11829-34. View in: PubMed

  18. Negash EW, Alemseged Z, Wynn JG, Bedaso ZK. Paleodietary reconstruction using stable isotopes and abundance analysis of bovids from the Shungura Formation of South Omo, Ethiopia. J Hum Evol. 2015 Nov; 88:127-136. View in: PubMed

  19. Thompson JC, McPherron SP, Bobe R, Reed D, Barr WA, Wynn JG, Marean CW, Geraads D, Alemseged Z. Taphonomy of fossils from the hominin-bearing deposits at Dikika, Ethiopia. J Hum Evol. 2015 Sep; 86:112-35. View in: PubMed

  20. Plummer TW, Ferraro JV, Louys J, Hertel F, Alemseged Z, Bobe R, Bishop LC. Bovid ecomorphology and hominin paleoenvironments of the Shungura Formation, lower Omo River Valley, Ethiopia. J Hum Evol. 2015 Nov; 88:108-126. View in: PubMed

  21. Skinner MM, Alemseged Z, Gaunitz C, Hublin JJ. Enamel thickness trends in Plio-Pleistocene hominin mandibular molars. J Hum Evol. 2015 Aug; 85:35-45. View in: PubMed

  22. Sponheimer M, Alemseged Z, Cerling TE, Grine FE, Kimbel WH, Leakey MG, Lee-Thorp JA, Manthi FK, Reed KE, Wood BA, Wynn JG. Reply to Fontes-Villalba et al.: On a reluctance to conjecture about animal food consumption. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Oct 22; 110(43):E4056. View in: PubMed

  23. Wynn JG, Sponheimer M, Kimbel WH, Alemseged Z, Reed K, Bedaso ZK, Wilson JN. Diet of Australopithecus afarensis from the Pliocene Hadar Formation, Ethiopia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 25; 110(26):10495-500. View in: PubMed

  24. Bedaso ZK, Wynn JG, Alemseged Z, Geraads D. Dietary and paleoenvironmental reconstruction using stable isotopes of herbivore tooth enamel from middle Pliocene Dikika, Ethiopia: implication for Australopithecus afarensis habitat and food resources. J Hum Evol. 2013 Jan; 64(1):21-38. View in: PubMed

  25. Green DJ, Alemseged Z. Australopithecus afarensis scapular ontogeny, function, and the role of climbing in human evolution. Science. 2012 Oct 26; 338(6106):514-7. View in: PubMed

  26. Alemseged Z, Kiura PW, Mbua E, Njau J, Pobiner B. A platform for East African paleoanthropology: third biannual conference of the EAAPP. Evol Anthropol. 2012 May; 21(3):89-91. View in: PubMed

  27. McPherron SP, Alemseged Z, Marean C, Wynn JG, Reed D, Geraads D, Bobe R, Béarat H. Tool-marked bones from before the Oldowan change the paradigm. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 May 24; 108(21):E116; author reply E117. View in: PubMed

  28. McPherron SP, Alemseged Z, Marean CW, Wynn JG, Reed D, Geraads D, Bobe R, Béarat HA. Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature. 2010 Aug 12; 466(7308):857-60. View in: PubMed

  29. Frost SR, Alemseged Z. Middle Pleistocene fossil Cercopithecidae from Asbole, Afar Region, Ethiopia. J Hum Evol. 2007 Sep; 53(3):227-59. View in: PubMed

  30. Wynn JG, Alemseged Z, Bobe R, Geraads D, Reed D, Roman DC. Geological and palaeontological context of a Pliocene juvenile hominin at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature. 2006 Sep 21; 443(7109):332-6. View in: PubMed

  31. Alemseged Z, Spoor F, Kimbel WH, Bobe R, Geraads D, Reed D, Wynn JG. A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature. 2006 Sep 21; 443(7109):296-301. View in: PubMed

  32. Alemseged Z, Wynn JG, Kimbel WH, Reed D, Geraads D, Bobe R. A new hominin from the Basal Member of the Hadar Formation, Dikika, Ethiopia, and its geological context. J Hum Evol. 2005 Oct; 49(4):499-514. View in: PubMed

  33. Alemseged Z. An integrated approach to taphonomy and faunal change in the Shungura formation (Ethiopia) and its implication for hominid evolution. J Hum Evol. 2003 Apr; 44(4):451-78. View in: PubMed

  34. Alemseged Z, Coppens Y, Geraads D. Hominid cranium from Omo: Description and taxonomy of Omo-323-1976-896. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2002 Feb; 117(2):103-12. View in: PubMed

  35. Alemseged Z, Geraads D. Theropithecus atlanticus (Thomas, 1884) (Primates: Cercopithecidae) from the late Pliocene of Ahl al Oughlam, Casablanca, Morocco. J Hum Evol. 1998 Jun; 34(6):609-21. View in: PubMed