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.

Number of wild mountain gorillas exceeds 1000
The population of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes has more than doubled in the past three decades more
Savanna chimpanzees suffer from heat stress
Regulating their body temperature to prevent overheating is a burden for chimpanzees living in the African savanna more
Rhythm crucial in drummed speech
Researchers find Amazonian Bora people to mimic the rhythm of their language for communication over large distances using drums more
Germany was covered by glaciers 450,000 years ago
New chronological data for the Middle Pleistocene glacial cycles push back the first glaciation and early human appearance in central Germany by about 100,000 years. more
New insights into the late history of Neandertals
The genomes of five late Neandertals provide insights into Neandertal population history more

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.
Studying gorillas requires courage as well as stamina. To investigate the lifestyles of these primates, researchers track them through the rainforest of Uganda – at a respectful distance.
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The first of our kind

2018 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

2017 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.

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Genetic adaptation to levels of dietary selenium in recent human history

2016 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

The evolution of the human brain

2015 Gunz, Philipp
Evolutionary Biology
The evolution of the human lineage is tightly linked to the evolution of the brain. To better understand the evolutionary changes in brain development, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology compare the cranial bones of recent modern humans to those of our closest living and fossil relatives. more

A world atlas of contact languages

2014 Michaelis, Susanne; Haspelmath, Martin
Linguistics

A new comprehensive database on grammatical structures of 76 contact languages provides insight into the origin of these languages, which arose in colonial times, as well as into general laws of the creation of mixed languages. The original languages of the indigenous populations in the colonial areas can be recognized by the clear grammatical traces that they left.

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