Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology focuses on matters regarding the origins of humankind. The Institute’s researchers study widely-differing aspects of human evolution. They analyse the genes, cultures and cognitive abilities of people living today and compare them with those of apes and extinct peoples. Scientists from various disciplines work closely together at the Institute: Geneticists trace the genetic make-up of extinct species, such as Neanderthals. Behaviourists and ecologists, for their part, study the behaviour of apes and other mammals.

Contact

Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-0
Fax: +49 341 3550-119

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS: The Leipzig School of Human Origins

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Comparative Cultural Psychology

more

Department Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture

more

Department Evolutionary Genetics

more

Department Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

more

Department Developmental and Comparative Psychology

more
Orphaned chimpanzees can suffer for life

Male chimpanzees who lose their mother early in life are less competitive and have fewer offspring than sons who continue to live with their mothers

more
Chimpanzees show greater behavioural and cultural diversity in more variable environments

Both historical and recent variation in ecological and environmental conditions are associated with larger behavioural repertoires in wild chimpanzees

more
The oldest Neanderthal DNA of Central-Eastern Europe

An 80,000-year-old Neanderthal reveals cultural and genetic affinities between Poland and the Northern Caucasus

more
Effectiveness of primate conservation measures mostly unproved

Evidence-based conservation is key to curb primate population declines

more
Neandertals may have had a lower threshold for pain

People who inherited a special ion channel from Neandertals experience more pain

more

To a very large degree, academic freedom as we know it today is based on the way it was conceived in Germany during the 19th century. At that time, it was not only professors who were in a position to make independent decisions about their research topics; students, too, enjoyed freedoms that seem incredible from today’s perspective. Lorraine Daston from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin has studied the development of academic freedom and its limitations.

Family Constellations

On Location

What makes humans human? How and when did we become what we are today? How did our ancestors live? These questions are of great interest to a lot of people. The scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology use different methods to investigate them systematically. One of these methods involves extracting DNA from human fossils. Using a new procedure, Svante Pääbo and his team can isolate and sequence ancient genetic material from just a few grams of bone powder, allowing them to compare the genomes of different prehistoric humans with one another and with people living today.

“Mine!” This all-too-familiar children’s cry can drive parents to distraction. Nevertheless, Michael Tomasello from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig firmly believes that – unlike our nearest animal relatives, the great apes, who largely lack the capacity for collaboration – children are naturally cooperative and helpful.

Meet the Neanderthals

MPR 3 /2010 Biology & Medicine

Neanderthals mated with modern humans! This revelation generated great excitement among the media, but it’s old news for anthropologists. They are more interested in the genome of our closest relative.

As far as cognitive scientists are concerned, the children’s game “I spy with my little eye” is anything but child’s play. It is based on the assumption that the person whose turn it is can imagine what the other players are able to see – or not. But do dogs and apes, for instance, also share this ability? At the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, scientists study social cognition factors in different species.

Positions (PhD/Postdocs) in Phylogenetics and Language/Cultural Evolution

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig August 06, 2020

First hominins on the Tibetan Plateau were Denisovans

2019 Hublin, Jean-Jacques

Evolutionary Biology Genetics

So far Denisovans were only known from a small collection of fossil fragments from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Together with researchers from China Jean-Jacques Hublin from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology describes a 160,000-year-old hominin mandible from Xiahe in China. Using ancient protein analysis the researchers found that the mandible’s owner belonged to a population that occupied the Tibetan Plateau in the Middle Pleistocene and that was closely related to the Denisovans from Siberia.

more

A Neanderthal-Denisovan “Intermarriage”

2018 Slon, Viviane; Pääbo, Svante

Behavioural Biology Cognitive Science Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

In prehistoric times, two distinct groups of hominins inhabited Eurasia: Neanderthals in the west and Denisovans in the east. We sequenced the genome of an approximately 90,000-year-old female individual from Russia and discovered that she had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. This shows that individuals from these two groups occasionally mixed. Together with previous evidence that Neanderthals and Denisovans mixed with early modern humans, this shows that throughout history, humans from different groups have always mixed.

more

The first of our kind

2017 Gunz, Philipp

Behavioural Biology Cognitive Science Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

New finds of fossils and stone tools from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) document the origin of our species by about 300,000 years ago in Africa. These fossils are more than 100,000 years older than the previous oldest finds and document important biological and behavioural changes in an early evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens.

more

Social determinants of human communication

2016 Bohn, Manuel; Stöber, Gregor

Behavioural Biology Cognitive Science

Like no other medium, language transports meaning in interactions. Recent studies highlight (1) how meaning is constituted through shared social experience in interactions with preverbal infants, (2) that different social contexts can modify the meaning of gestures in the second year of life, and (3) that young children can establish meaning in original ways when encountering cooperative contexts that limit the use of linguistic communication.

more

Genetic adaptation to levels of dietary selenium in recent human history

2015 White, Louise; Castellano, Sergi

Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

The micronutrient selenium is an essential part of the human diet. As humans migrated out of Africa about 60,000 years ago they came to settle in environments with vastly differing selenium levels. Researchers of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have found evidence that human populations who live in regions that provide insufficient dietary selenium show signals of adaptation in the genes that use or regulate selenium.

more
Go to Editor View