Date(s) - February 11, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Use of interdisciplinary techniques with
ancient genomics to examine population movements in Asia:
From macaques to humans
Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, New York City
My research on evolutionary aspects of population movements began with an interest in the “Island Rule”, a generalization that combines two contrasting evolutionary tendencies whereby small-bodied animals evolve larger body size (gigantism) and large-bodied animals evolve smaller body size (dwarfism) on islands. To date, most studies of the “Island Rule” have examined its generality by comparing broad groups of species without regard to phylogeographic contexts. Additionally, scientists have rarely studied specific anatomical modifications associated with general body size changes on islands. Therefore, I used museum specimens to analyze the Island Rule and the phylogeography of a single species of primate: long-tailed macaques. My analyses reveal complex morphological patterns in insular populations and unique phylogeographic patterns throughout the Southeast Asian region, which has since allowed me to expand my research using museum specimens to other taxa in the region, including gibbons, langurs, and pelicans. Ancient DNA has also been crucial in uncovering our understanding of human migration. However, one conspicuous omission from ancient human studies is comprehensive genomic research on Chinese populations while taking into account other aspects of anthropology and geography. My research on this front focuses on the genomics of well-preserved ancient human remains from across northern China to ask extensive questions about the timing and adoption of agricultural practices in light environmental changes, origins and cultural practices of a warring nomadic tribe, and genetic admixture through the period before and during the Silk Road.
About the Speaker
Lu Yao is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Hunter College in New York City. She completed her Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at University of Chicago on the phylogeographic and phenotypic evolution of macaques on islands. With the aid of numerous external funds, including three NSF grants, she utilized museum specimens from around the world to carry out her work. Afterwards, she took up the Gerstner Postdoctoral Fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she developed her current research program on population movements utilizing ancient genomics with various aspects of anthropology.