Dr Kristian Carlson

Dr Kristian CarlsonSenior Researcher
Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University (

Phone: 27 (0) 11 717 6681

Research interests: Functional morphology, primate locomotion, primate ecomorphology, paleoanthropology, comparative anatomy, virtual paleoanthropology

Post-graduate student supervision:
2008- Anne Su, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University (external member on PhD committee)
2009- Bonita de Klerk, Institute for Human Evolution/Bernard Price Institute for Paleontology, School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand (co-supervisor on PhD committee)

Kristian Carlson on fieldworkDr. Carlson received his MA and PhD in Anthropology from Indiana University. His undergraduate BS degrees in Anthropology and Anthropology-Zoology were awarded by the University of Michigan. He completed post-doctoral work in the Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University, and in the Anthropologisches Institut und Museum, Universit?Z?h.

His research focuses on understanding how limbs, acting as structures, are stressed during locomotor modes, and understanding the functional signals that locomotor activities leave in limb anatomy. Identifying the selective advantages of bipedalism for an arboreal ape-like human ancestor is a central topic in paleoanthropology. Identifying changes in limb structure during hominin evolution offers an opportunity to resolve whether the shift towards terrestrial bipedalism happened relatively quickly or more gradually, and whether fore- and hind limbs reveal similar or different evolutionary histories.

Kristian Carlson scanning samplesIn order to model early hominin functional morphology, Dr. Carlson studies functional morphology of our closest living ancestor, the chimpanzee. He particularly emphasizes habituated chimpanzees in his research programme, for these unique populations provide unrivalled research opportunities to study chimpanzee form and function in the context of associated documentation on habitat, life history, and behavioral repertoires.

His research programme has several active foci:

  • Examination of morphological variability in extant and fossil ape limb anatomy
  • Investigating ecomorphology and habitat complexity in chimpanzee communities
  • Experimental analyses of primate gait kinetics and kinematics
  • Studying form-function relationships in vertebrate limb anatomy using mouse models
  • Participation in the Malapa paleoanthropological project, a new hominin-bearing fossil locality in South Africa.

Selected publications in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters:

K.J. Carlson, R.W. Wrangham, M.N. Muller, D.R. Sumner, M.E. Morbeck, T. Nishida, A. Yamanaka, and C. Boesch. (In press). Comparisons of limb structural properties in free-ranging chimpanzees from Kibale, Gombe, Mahale, and Ta?ommunities. Book chapter in a volume to be published by Springer Press. Editors: Evie Vereecke and Kristi n D Ao?/p>

K.J. Carlson and B. Demes. (In press) Gait dynamics of Cebus apella during quadrupedalism on terrestrial and simulated arboreal substrates. American Journal of Physical Anthropology

M.G. Nowak, K.J. Carlson, and B.A. Patel. (In press). Apparent density of the primate calcaneo-cuboid joint and its relationship to habitual locomotor mode and foot posture. American Journal of Physical Anthropology

S. Judex and K.J. Carlson. (2009). Is bone?s response to mechanical signals dominated by gravitational loading? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 41: 2037-2043.

B. Demes and K.J. Carlson. (2009). Locomotor variation and bending regimes of capuchin limb bones. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139: 558-571.

K.J. Carlson, D.R. Sumner, M.E. Morbeck, T. Nishida, A. Yamanaka, and C. Boesch. (2008). Input of non-behavioral factors to long bone diaphyseal shape in free-ranging chimpanzees. International Journal of Primatology 29: 1401-1420.

K.J. Carlson, S. Lublinsky, and S. Judex. (2008). Do different locomotor modes during growth modulate trabecular architecture in the murine hind limb? Integrative and Comparative Biology 48:385-393. (Cover article)

K.J. Carlson and S. Judex. (2007). Increased non-linear locomotion alters diaphyseal bone shape.
Journal of Experimental Biology 210: 3117-3125.

K.J. Carlson, F.E. Grine, and O.M. Pearson. (2007). Robusticity and sexual dimorphism in the postcranium of modern hunter-gatherers from Australia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 134: 9-23.

K.J. Carlson and B.A. Patel. (2006). Habitual use of the primate forelimb is reflected in the material properties of subchondral bone in the distal radius. Journal of Anatomy 208: 659-670. (Cover article)

K.J. Carlson, D. Doran-Sheehy, K.D. Hunt, T. Nishida, A. Yamanaka, and C. Boesch. Locomotor behavior and long bone morphology in individual free-ranging chimpanzees. (2006). Journal of Human Evolution 50: 394-404.

B. Demes, K.J. Carlson, and T.M. Franz. (2006). Cutting corners: the dynamics of turning behaviors in two primate species. Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 927-937.

K.J. Carlson. (2005). Investigating the form-function interface in African apes ? relationships between principal moments of area and positional behaviors in femoral and humeral diaphyses. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 127: 312-334.

K.J. Carlson, B. Demes, and T.M. Franz. (2005). Mediolateral forces associated with quadrupedal gaits of lemurids. Journal of Zoology, London 266: 261-273.

K.J. Carlson and T.R. Pickering. (2004). Shape-adjusted bone mineral density measurements in baboons: other factors explain primate skeletal element representation at Swartkrans. Journal of Archaeological Science 31: 577-583.


K.J. Carlson and T.R. Pickering. (2003). Intrinsic qualities of primate bones as predictors of element representation in modern and fossil carnivore feeding assemblages. Journal of Human Evolution 44: 431-450.

T.R. Pickering and K.J. Carlson. (2002). Baboon bone mineral densities: implications for the taphonomy of primate skeletons in South African cave sites. Journal of Archaeological Science 29: 883-896.