Director: Dr. Todd Disotell
The Molecular Anthropology Laboratory investigates primate and human evolution using standard and newly emerging techniques of molecular analyses and data analysis including DNA extraction, PCR amplification, DNA sequencing, and data analysis. These techniques can be used to characterize a species’ population size or reproductive behavior and to infer phylogenetic (evolutionary) relationships between species. This research group has contributed to clarifying the primate evolutionary tree including Old World monkeys and apes (including humans) as well as New World monkeys, lemurs, and lorises. The lab has also used molecular phylogenetics to trace disease transmission and evolution among primate species, including diseases that affect humans such as HIV and malaria. In the laboratory and in the field, lab members extract DNA from a variety of sources–hair, saliva, blood (including that found in biting insects), and feces. The lab’s research has led to the identification of new species and subspecies of primates based on genetic analysis. They have also helped to develop new techniques of molecular analyses that can be applied to a wide variety of species.