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The Evolutionary History of the Human Face:  A developmental perspective


Rodrigo S. Lacruz, New York University

Monday, April 18, 2016

5:15 – 6:15 pm, AA-G008



The evolutionary history of many fossil species is known for their preserved facial skeletons. Hominin faces inform us about anatomy, phylogeny and adaptation/function. However, which characteristics of hominin species are shared with Homo sapiens is difficult to ascertain. In part this is linked to the lack of a comprehensive and widely accepted definition of the modern human face. The focus of the present study is to evaluate developmental characteristics of the human face that shape adult morphology. Humans show an overall retraction of the facial skeleton when compared to their fossil relatives. This facial retraction, or orthognathy, is associated with extensive bone resorption on the anteriorly-facing aspect of the human maxilla. Fossil hominins differ in the distribution of maxillary resorption and hence on the impact of this developmental feature in overall morphology. Available data for each hominin species is analyzed with particular attention to understanding the developmental origin of the modern human face.


About the Speaker

Rodrigo S. Lacruz, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology, NYU College of Dentistry and Sackler Institute, NYU School of Medicine.


I was born in mainland Spain but grew up in the sunny Canary Islands where I attended University. After traveling and working in East and Southern Africa for eight years I embarked in pursuing higher academic goals and completed first an MSc on cave geology and palaeontology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was followed by a PhD thesis  focusing on dental development of Plio-Pleistocene hominins. After seven years of living and studying in South Africa I took a post-doctoral position at the University of Southern California (School of Dentistry) to study enamel genetics. This was like doing another PhD but after nearly six years I was able to obtain an NIH career award which enabled me to get a tenure track Faculty position in New York University College of Dentistry doing basic science research focusing on calcium channels and signaling in a number of systems including enamel and salivary glands which is also funded by NIH. I continue to work on fossils and to study developmental aspects of fossils in Africa and Europe.

Last Updated: 12/4/20