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Alumni Cafe talk From Fossils to Genes

Alumni Café


Join the Woodsworth College Alumni Association for a talk presented by Becky A. Sigmon, Emeritus Prof. of Anthropology, University of Toronto

The fossil record of our earliest ancestors that we call australopithecines will be illustrated with slides selected from 3 major locations. These show how a human palaeontologist finds, recognizes, dates, and interprets fossils and the paleo-environment they inhabited. Environment is the shaper of morphology. Herein lies one connection between Palaeo-anthropology and the recently emerging field of “ancient DNA”, and the possibilities and problems facing aDNA researchers.

Speaker bio:

Prof. Sigmon is a palaeoanthropologist with research interests in early human evolution. She has researched the origins of erect bipedalism in (australopithecine) hominid fossils in East and South Africa as well as expeditions to Ethiopia. Prof. Sigmon lived briefly with the San hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari desert for the purpose of conceptualizing the nature of early human subsistence patterns. Long-term interests are “what is human?” as reflected in two of Prof. Sigmon’s books: Human Ecology and Challenges in the 21st Century; and Physics, Evolution, God: Mass and Nomass (with Physicist R.L.Dowden).

Searching for connections between fossils and genes is a recent interest and was stimulated by science’s re-discovery of “epigenetics,” and by geneticists’ attempts to find DNA in sub-fossils.

Becky A. Sigmon is Emerita Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Mississauga.