Friday, April 18th


Biological Anthropology Program Coordinator

Ph.D. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2001

Specialty: paleoanthropology, paleoecology, isotope ecology, zooarchaeology, taphonomy

Current Research Projects: I am a paleoanthropologist whose research focuses on the ecology and evolution of the australopiths in Africa. My principal research site is Malapa, a recently discovered early Pleistocene locality in South Africa. To date we have encountered at least six skeletons at this site, and we have assigned these hominins to a new species, Australopithecus sediba. I am one of the principal investigators at Malapa, primarily responsible for all hominin craniodental remains, as well as all isotopic analyses. Australopithecus sediba represents a curious mixture of both australopith-like and Homo-like morphologies, and based on this mosaic assortment of characters we have hypothesized that Australopithecus sediba represents the australopith ancestor of the genus Homo. In addition to Malapa, I am the principal investigator at two fossil sites in the Free State of South Africa: Matjhabeng, the only Pliocene river-deposited site in South Africa; and Mimosa, an MSA locality with rare, abundant animal fossils. I am the project zooarchaeologist at the robust australopith site of Coopers Cave, and at the MSA site of Plovers Lake. I have conducted research into the taphonomy of the hominin fossil caves of South Africa, including sites such as Swartkrans and Gladysvale. I am also involved a series of studies investigating the isotope ecology of modern South Africa in order to better contextualize the isotope ecology of the hominin-bearing fossil caves. Our most recent project focused on the ranging and reproductive behaviors of the australopiths of South Africa as reflected in strontium isotope ratios detected in their teeth.

Courses Taught:

ANTH 225- Introduction to Biological Anthropology

ANTH 312- Fossil Evidence for Human Evolution

ANTH 315- Fossil Evidence for Human Evolution

ANT H 409 -  Science, Pseudoscience and Critical Thinking

ANTH 601- Biological Anthropology

Current Graduate Students: Kersten Bergstrom, Timothy Campbell, Keely Carlson

Representative Publications:

Copeland, S.R., Sponheimer, M., de Ruiter, D.J., Lee-Thorp, J.A., Codron, D., le Roux, P.J., Grimes, V., Richards, M.P. (2011). Strontium isotope evidence for early hominin landscape use. Nature 474: 76-78.

de Ruiter, D.J., Brophy, J.K., Lewis, P.J., Kennedy, A.M., Stidham, T.A., Carlson, K.B., Hancox, P.J. (2010). Preliminary investigation of Matjhabeng, a Pliocene fossil locality in the Free State of South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana 45: 11-22.

Berger, L.R., de Ruiter, D.J., Churchill, S.E., Schmid, P., Carlson, K.J., Dirks, P.H.G.M., Kibii, J.M. (2010). Australopithecus sediba: a new species of Homo-like australopithecine from South Africa. Science 328: 195-204.

de Ruiter, D.J., Pickering, R., Steininger, C.M., Kramers, J.D., Hancox, P.J., Churchill, S.E., Berger, L.R., Backwell, L. (2009). New Australopithecus robustus fossils and associated U-Pb dates from Cooper’s Cave (Gauteng, South Africa). Journal of Human Evolution 56: 497-513.

de Ruiter, D.J., Sponheimer, M., Lee-Thorp, J.A. (2008). Indications of habitat association of Australopithecus robustus in the Bloubank Valley, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 55: 1015-1030.