News

Herman Pontzer explains where our calories really go, and what studying humanity’s past can teach us about staying healthy today. read more about Duke Researcher Busts Metabolism Myths in New Book »

The Office for Faculty Advancement has awarded seed grants to 14 faculty-led projects exploring new ideas and expanding existing initiatives to promote an equitable and inclusive academic environment at Duke. The theme for this cycle was "Confronting Racism and Bias: Fostering an Inclusive Community." Faculty Advancement Seed Grants provide a financial head start for novel faculty development initiatives within academic units. 2021-22 Faculty Advancement Seed Grants Art, Art History and Visual Studies Anti-Racist Pedagogy… read more about Seed Grants Help Faculty Lead the Way in Confronting Racism and Bias »

DURHAM, N.C. -- When you think about what separates humans from chimpanzees and other apes, you might think of our big brains, or the fact that we get around on two legs rather than four. But we have another distinguishing feature: water efficiency. That’s the take-home of a new study that, for the first time, measures precisely how much water humans lose and replace each day compared with our closest living animal relatives. Our bodies are constantly losing water: when we sweat, go to the bathroom, even when we breathe.… read more about Humans Evolved to Be the Water-Saving Ape »

Duke's primate researchers travel the globe to observe wild primates, including the chimpanzees of Gombe who were first studied by Jane Goodall, and the baboons of Amboseli, who have been studied for five decades. Longevity in Humans and Chimpanzees Many humans live to see their 80s, some even reach 100. But chimpanzees rarely make it past 50, despite sharing 99% of our genetic code. While modern medicine has added years to human lifespans, a Sept. 2020 Duke study points to a more ancient explanation why humans are the long… read more about Learning From Our Closest Relatives »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Humans aren’t the only mammals that form long-term bonds with a single, special mate -- some bats, wolves, beavers, foxes and other animals do, too. But new research suggests the brain circuitry that makes love last in some species may not be the same in others. The study, appearing Feb. 12 in the journal Scientific Reports, compares monogamous and promiscuous species within a closely related group of lemurs, distant primate cousins of humans from the island Madagascar. Red-bellied lemurs and mongoose lemurs… read more about Lemurs Show There’s No Single Formula For Lasting Love »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Malaria is an ancient scourge, but it’s still leaving its mark on the human genome. And now, researchers have uncovered recent traces of adaptation to malaria in the DNA of people from Cabo Verde, an island nation off the African coast. An archipelago of ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean some 385 miles offshore from Senegal, Cabo Verde was uninhabited until the mid-1400s, when it was colonized by Portuguese sailors who brought enslaved Africans with them and forced them to work the land. The Africans who… read more about Malaria Threw Human Evolution Into Overdrive on This African Archipelago »

We use our mouths to tell stories, but we rarely ask what stories our teeth can tell. Teeth can reveal our age, what we eat, where we come from and may even give hints about how stressed we are. Can they do the same for our extinct hominid ancestors? They just might, with help from a Gordon P. Getty Grant from the Leakey Foundation to a multi-institutional team led by Dr. Richard Kay, Duke professor of Evolutionary Anthropology. This prestigious award honors scientists whose research advances multidisciplinary science… read more about What Can Fossil Teeth Tell Us About Our Ancestors? »

Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you your skull shape. Well, not quite, but thanks to a newly-funded grant from the Leakey Foundation, Dr. Justin Ledogar might have some good insights. Dr. Ledogar, an Assistant Research Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology, will examine dietary ecology and feeding biomechanics in a unique group of South American primates, the sakis and bearded sakis, at Brownsberg Nature Park in Suriname. Unlike most other fruit-eating primate species, these monkeys specialize on the nutrient-rich… read more about New Grant Sheds Light on the Evolution of Primate Skull Shape  »

Viruses and bacteria not only make us sick, but have also played an important role in shaping primate evolution. Because pathogens are so large in number and replicate so quickly, we know that the immune system has had to adapt very fast to stay on a level playing field. Still, many open questions about our evolutionary history with pathogens remain. For example, what kinds of disease-causing microbes have been more important—viruses or bacteria? What changes have occurred in primate genomes to deal with these threats? Do… read more about Ph.D. Candidate Jordan Anderson Receives Leakey Foundation grant! »

We’ve all heard the term “survival of the fittest,” which scientist Charles Darwin famously coined to explain how organisms with heritable traits that give them an advantage — such as avoiding predators or beating out others for the chance to mate — are able to survive and pass on these advantageous traits to their offspring. In his talk with ClubEvMed last Tuesday, Brian Hare of Duke Evolutionary Anthropology explained key points from his new book that he co-authored with his wife and research partner, Vanessa Woods,… read more about The Evolutionary Advantage of Being Friendly »

Last year, a dozen Duke University doctoral students used Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) to acquire new skills, knowledge or experiences that will enhance their original research. In these excerpts from their reports, students reflect on what they learned. Jacqueline Allain, Ph.D. in History Birthing Imperial Citizens I used my GSTEG grant to attend the Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA) Summer School. During this week-long program, I attended seminars led by important scholars of critical… read more about Doctoral Students Gain New Perspectives on Their Research »

Aleah Bowie, an associate in research in Evolutionary Anthropology, was quoted in a New York Times article about an unusual project she worked on. The animal behavior expert was emailed about "a peer-reviewed scientific paper by a team of Chinese scientists who had dedicated more than a decade to investigating why giant pandas smear their bodies with mounds and mounds of horse manure." read more about Why Are Pandas Covering Themselves With Horse Manure? »

When COVID hit last spring, many graduate students had to give up their summer plans for teaching, field research and internships. The Provost’s Office quickly pledged support, and Vice Provost Ed Balleisen spearheaded the effort to identify virtual opportunities. Experiential fellowships with eight host organizations and research assistantships with more than 20 Duke units provided summer funding and career development for all 59 Ph.D. students in need. Every student who responded to Duke’s end-of-summer evaluation would… read more about Duke Ph.D. Students Find Unexpected Benefits in an Unusual Summer »

Brian Hare, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, and Vanessa Woods, a research scientist in the same department, are interviewed about their book Survival of the Friendliest in this video by National Geographic. read more about Why It Actually Might Be 'Survival of the Friendliest' »

DURHAM , N.C. -- Many humans live to see their 70s and 80s, some even reach 100 years old. But life is much shorter for our closest animal relatives. Chimpanzees, for example, rarely make it past age 50, despite sharing almost 99% of our genetic code. While advances in medicine and nutrition in the last 200 years have added years to human lifespans, a new study suggests there could be a more ancient explanation why humans are the long-lived primate. Part of the secret to human longevity, researchers say, may lie in chemical… read more about Your Cells Look Young for Their Age, Compared to a Chimp’s »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Close bonds with the opposite sex can have non-romantic benefits. And not just for people, but for our primate cousins, too. Drawing on 35 years of data, a new study of more than 540 baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya finds that male baboons that have close female friends have higher rates of survival than those who don’t. Researchers have often assumed that when a male is friendlier to certain females, it’s for the reproductive perks: to better protect his offspring, or to boost his chances of… read more about Male Baboons With Female Friends Live Longer  »

Brian Hare, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, and Vanessa Woods, a research scientist in the same department, joined Alan Alda's radio show Clear+Vivid to discuss what their research tells us about humanity's essential ingredient. Listen at the Clear+Vivid website. read more about On Humanity’s Essential Ingredient »

Research by Brian Hare, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, is discussed in a Washington Post article about training service dogs. Read the article at the Washington Post. read more about Which Pups Will Make the Grade as a Service Dog? »

Professor Brian Hare and research scientist Vanessa Woods, both from the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, joined WUNC to explain how "survival of the fittest" may not just favor size and strength. Listen at WUNC. read more about Natural Selection Favors The Friendly, According To Duke Scientists »

COVID-19 is bringing new scientific, behavioral and cultural challenges every day. The DIBS Faculty Network consists of 200 interdisciplinary neuroscience researchers from across Duke’s Schools of Medicine, Nursing,  and Law; Pratt School of  Engineering, Fuqua School of Business, and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Their research can help us understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is influencing people’s decision-making, behavior, choices, and physical and mental health. The following faculty interviews offer an… read more about COVID-19: A Neuroscience Perspective »

Fifteen Duke Ph.D. students have received prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) for 2020. Launched in 1952, the GRFP is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind. It supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing Ph.D. or research-based master’s degrees. Fellows receive a three-year stipend, coverage of tuition and fees, and opportunities for international research and… read more about 15 Ph.D. Students Receive Prestigious NSF Fellowships »

Congratulations to the following student award winners from Duke University units in 2020.   African & African American Studies   John Hope Franklin Award for Academic Excellence: Elizabeth DuBard Grantland Karla FC Holloway Award for University Service: Beza Gebremariam Mary McLeod Bethune Writing Award: Jenna Clayborn Walter C. Burford Award for Community Service: Kayla Lynn Corredera-Wells   Art, Art History & Visual Studies        Mary Duke… read more about Student Honors and Laurels for 2020 »

It’s 1 PM and you’re only halfway through a 6-hour hike, climbing in steep terrain under a 100° cloudless sky. Your water bottle is nearly empty, and you’ve heard the worst of this hike is yet to come. And then, just as you are making peace with the fact that you may collapse from dehydration at any second, you approach a small river. The germaphobe side of your brain is shouting for you not to drink from that. The dehydrated animal in you, however, is seriously considering it. What do you do? That is the question that Dr.… read more about For Lemurs, Water Holes Are a Matter of Taste »

Humans have conquered smallpox and drastically reduced child mortality rates, yet we now face problems never seen before. Conditions like heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes pose serious threats to our health. How can we overcome them? The answer may lie in our past. Herman Pontzer, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke, thinks we have something to learn by looking at hunter gatherers For most of human evolution, we had to work for our food. Recent developments like supermarkets and cities are… read more about Paleo Fact and Fiction: the Key to Being Healthy »

Duke University alumnus Noor Tasnim has been named one of 18 Luce scholars for 2020-2021. The Luce award provides stipends for living and professional placement in Asia. Tasnim graduated from Duke in 2018 with distinction in evolutionary anthropology and in global health.  He researches lower limb biomechanics, musculoskeletal injuries and performance. His research interest came about after he joined Street Medicine Urban Dance Team at Duke and began to study barefoot locomotion and lower limb injuries.  His research led… read more about Duke Alumnus Wins Luce Scholarship for Research in Asia »

Even kids who are nearly grown still need a parental figure to help them navigate the long path to adulthood -- and our closest animal relatives are no exception. A new study of wild chimpanzees finds that males whose moms were present during their tween and teen years had higher odds of survival later in life, compared with their peers who lost their mothers before they finished puberty. The results appear in the February 2020 issue of the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. Beginning in the 1960s, researchers led… read more about Adolescent Male Chimps Still Need Their Mamas  »

Brian Hare, professor of evolutionary anthropology and researcher/founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, was quoted in a article comparing language skills in children and dogs. Read the full article in The Washington Post. read more about Babies are bad at listening in noisy places. Dogs aren’t. My pets took part in a study to learn why. »

In chimpanzee society, males spend their entire lives in the group where they were born, cooperating to defend their territory, while females tend to move away. But some chimp females seem less willing to cut the apron strings. New findings from researchers at Duke University and North Carolina State University show that female chimpanzees with high-ranking mothers are more likely to be homebodies. The study suggests that the perks of having a powerful mom can make it worthwhile for some females to stay and reproduce in the… read more about Female Chimps With Powerful Moms Are Less Likely to Leave Home »