Blythe A. Williams
  • Blythe A. Williams

  • Associate Professor of the Practice
  • Evolutionary Anthropology
  • 0013 Biological Sciences Building
  • Campus Box 90383
  • Phone: (919) 660-7385
  • Fax: (919) 660-7348
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Specialties

    • Primate Paleontology & Morphology
    • Primate Biology
    • Vertebrate Paleontology
    • Cognitive Evolution
  • Research Summary

    Primate and human evolution; Paleontology; Systematics and adaptations of primates
  • Research Description

    I'm interested in the evolutionary relationships and ecological adaptations of primates, with particular focus on the initial diversification of the order Primates, the origin of the Anthropoidea, and the early hominoid radiation. I am also interested in the effects of climate change on the evolution of primates.
  • Current Projects

    Evolution of anthropoid primates, Effects of climate change on primate evolution in the Cenozoic, Primate evolution in the Miocene of India , Paleontological fieldwork in the Eocene deposits of West Texas
  • Areas of Interest

    Primate and Human Evolution
    Anthropoid origins
    Effects of climate on primate evolution
    Ethics in Evolutionary Anthropology
    Dance Science
  • Education

      • Ph.D.,
      • Anthropology,
      • University of Colorado, Boulder,
      • 1994
      • M.A.,
      • Anthropology,
      • University of Colorado, Boulder,
      • 1989
      • B.A.,
      • Anthropology, Psychology,
      • Hamline University,
      • 1983
  • Awards, Honors and Distinctions

      • Top 5% in Teaching Evaluations, Duke University (Quality of Course/Stimulation),
      • April 2014
    • Field Work

      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 2009 - 2010
        • Kutch, India
        • Miocene fossils in Kutch, India.
      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 2009
        • Devil's Graveyard, West Texas
        • Eocene fossils in West Texas
      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 2005
        • Patagonia, Argentina
        • Miocene fossils north of Rio Gallegos, southern Patagonia.
      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 1994 - 1995
        • Ngamiland, Botswana
        • Pleistocene fossils in the caves of northwestern Botswana.
      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 1992 - 1994
        • Bolivia
        • Fossils in western Bolivia
      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 1989
        • Fayum Region, Egypt
        • Eocene and Oligocene fossils
      • Paleontological Field Work
        • 1987 - 1993
        • Wyoming and Colorado
        • Eocene fossils from Washakie, Powder River, Bighorn, Bridger Basins of Wyoming, Huerfano Basin of Colorado
  • Selected Publications

      • E.C. Kirk, B.A. Williams.
      • 2011.
      • A new adapiform primate of Old World affinities from the Devil's Graveyard Formation of Texas.
      • Journal of Human Evolution
      • 61:
      • 156-168
      • .
      Publication Description

      Most adapiform primates from North America are members of an endemic radiation of notharctines. North American notharctines flourished during the Early and early Middle Eocene, with only two genera persisting into the late Middle Eocene. Here we describe a new genus of adapiform primate from the Devil’s Graveyard Formation of Texas. Mescalerolemur horneri, gen. et sp. nov., is known only from the late Middle Eocene (Uintan) Purple Bench locality. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that Mescalerolemur is more closely related to Eurasian and African adapiforms than to North American notharctines. In this respect, M. horneri is similar to its sister taxon Mahgarita stevensi from the late Duchesnean of the Devil’s Graveyard Formation. The presence of both genera in the Big Bend region of Texas after notharctines had become locally extinct provides further evidence of faunal interchange between North America and East Asia during the middle Eocene. The fact that Mescalerolemur and Mahgarita are both unknown outside of Texas also supports prior hypotheses that low-latitude faunal assemblages in North America demonstrate increased endemism by the late middle Eocene.

      • Williams, B.A., Kay, R.F., Kirk, E.C., and Ross, C.F..
      • 2010.
      • Darwinius masillae is a strepsirrhine – a reply to Franzen et al. 2009.
      • Journal of Human Evolution
      • 59:
      • 567-573
      • .
      • Williams, B.A., Kay, R.F. and Kirk, E.C..
      • 2010.
      • New Perspectives on Anthropoid Origins.
      • Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
      • 107:
      • 4794-4804
      • .
      Publication Description

      Adaptive shifts associated with human origins are brought to light as we examine the human fossil record and study our own genome and that of our closest ape relatives. However, the more ancient roots of many human characteristics are revealed through the study of a broader array of living anthropoids and the increasingly dense fossil record of the earliest anthropoid radiations. Genomic data and fossils of early primates in Asia and Africa clarify relationships among the major clades of primates. Progress in comparative anatomy, genomics, and molecular biology point to key changes in sensory ecology and brain organization that ultimately set the stage for the emergence of the human lineage.

      • Williams, B.A. and Kirk, E.C..
      • 2008.
      • New Uintan Primates from Texas and their implications for North American patterns of species richness during the Eocene..
      • Journal of Human Evolution
      • 55:
      • 927-941
      • .
      Publication Description

      New omomyid fossils from the Purple Bench locality of the Devil’s Graveyard Formation, middle Eocene (Uintan) of southwest Texas, are described. One specimen represents a new genus and species, herein named Diablomomys dalquesti. This new species is allocated to the tribe Omomyini, sister taxon to Omomys and Chumashius. A second specimen represents a range extension of the Utah species Mytonius hopsoni to the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. Previously, only one omomyid species (Omomys carteri) had been documented from Purple Bench and other late Uintan localities in the Devil’s Graveyard Formation. These new omomyid fossils are of particular significance because Purple Bench is stratigraphically intermediate between the older late Bridgerian/early Uintan localities and the younger Duchesnean localities of Trans-Pecos Texas. With a more southerly location in the continental United States, the Devil’s Graveyard Formation amplifies our understanding of patterns of North American primate richness at a time when the higher-latitude sites of the western interior were undergoing significant climatic cooling and increases in seasonality with commensurate faunal reorganization. Although the Uintan (approximately 46.5–40 Ma) was a time in which anaptomorphine richness decreased dramatically, the results of this analysis suggest that Uintan omomyine richness is higher than was previously appreciated, particularly at lower latitudes.

      • Bajpai, S., Kay, R.F., Williams, B.A., Das, Debasis, Kapur, V.V., Tiwari, B.N..
      • 2008.
      • The oldest Asian record of Anthropoidea.
      • Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
      • 105:
      • 11093-11098
      • .
      • Williams, B.A..
      • 2007.
      • Comparing levels of homoplasy in the primate skeleton.
      • Journal of Human Evolution
      • 52:
      • 480-489
      • .
      • Ross, C.F., Williams, B. A., and Kay, R. F..
      • 1998.
      • Phylogenetic Analysis of Anthropoid Relationships.
      • Journal of Human Evolution
      • 35:
      • 221-306
      • .
      • Sánchez-Villagra, M. and Williams, B.A..
      • 1998.
      • Levels of homoplasy in the evolution of the mammalian skeleton.
      • Journal of Mammalian Evolution
      • 5:
      • 113-126
      • .
      • Kay, R.F., Williams, B.A., Ross, C.R., Takai, M, and Shigehara, N..
      • 2004.
      • Anthropoid Origins: a phylogenetic analysis.
      • 91-135
      • .
      • Kay, R.F., Ross, C.F., and Williams, B.A., and Johnson, D..
      • 1997.
      • Cladistic Analysis and Anthropoid Origins.
      • Science
      • 278:
      • 2134-2136
      • .
      • Kay, R.F., Williams, B.A., and Anaya, F..
      • 2001.
      • The adaptations of Branisella boliviana, the earliest South American monkey.
      • 339-370
      • .
      • Kay, R.F., Ross, C.F., and Williams, B.A..
      • 1997.
      • Rethinking anthropoid origins.
      • Science
      • 275:
      • 797-804
      • .
      • Williams, B.A. and Kay, R. F..
      • 1995.
      • The taxon Anthropoidea and the crown clade concept.
      • Evolutionary Anthropology
      • 3:
      • 188-190
      • .
      • Covert, H., and Williams, B.A..
      • 1994.
      • Recently recovered North American Eocene omomyids and adapids and their bearing on debates about anthropoid origins.
      • 29-54
      • .
      • Kay, R.F. and Williams, B.A..
      • 1994.
      • Dental evidence for anthropoid origins.
      • 361-446
      • .
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  • Selected Grants

    • Exploration for middle Cenozoic primates, Kutch District, Gujarat, western India
      • Type: Research
      • Agency: L.S.B. Leakey
  • Teaching

    • EVANTH 580S.01
      • ETHICS IN EVOLUTIONARY ANTHRO
      • Bio Sci 101D
      • W 10:05 AM-12:35 PM
    • LS 760.29
      • SELECTED TOPICS
      • GLS 2114 CONF ROOM
      • Th 06:15 PM-08:45 PM