Scott A. Williams

Ph.D. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2011); M.A. Northern Illinois University (2006); B.A. Kent State University (2003)

Office Address: Rufus D. Smith Hall, 25 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10003

Curriculum Vitae


Areas of Research/Interest

Postcranial functional morphology, Evolution of the vertebral column, Early hominin locomotion, Homoplasy and homology, Morphological integration.

Associated with other departments or programs

Center for the Study of Human Origins

Publications

Peer-reviewed publications and theses

2013. Williams SA, Ostrofsky KR, Frater N, Churchill SE, Schmid P, Berger LR. The vertebral column of Australopithecus sediba. Science 340, 1232996. DOI: 10.1126/science.1232996

2012. Williams SA
. Evolution of the Hominoid Vertebral Column: The Long and Short of It. Lambert Academic Publishing.

2012. Williams SA. Modern or distinct axial bauplan in early hominins? Comments on Haeusler et al. (2011). J. Hum. Evol. 63, 552-556.

2012. Williams SA. Placement of the diaphragmatic vertebra in catarrhines: implications for the evolution of dorsostability in hominoids and bipedalism in hominins. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 148, 111-122.

2011. Williams SA. Variation in anthropoid vertebral formulae: implications for homology and homoplasy in hominoid evolution. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 318, 134-147.

2011. Williams SA. Evolution of the hominoid vertebral column. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL.

2010. Williams SA. Morphological integration and the evolution of knuckle-walking. J. Hum. Evol. 58: 432-440.

2010. Shattuck MR, Williams SA. Arboreality has allowed for the evolution of increased longevity in mammals. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107: 4635-4639.

2010. Polk JD, Williams SA, Peterson JV, Roseman CC, Godfrey LR. Subchondral bone apparent density and locomotor behavior in extant primates and subfossil lemurs Hadropithecus and Pachylemur. Int. J. Primatol. 31: 275-299.

2009. Polk JD, Williams SA, Peterson JV. Body size and joint posture in primates. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 140: 359-367.

2006. Williams SA. Anatomical variation in the hand and wrist of African apes: evidence for a single origin of knuckle-walking adaptations. M.A. thesis, Northern Illinois University, Dekalb.

Presentations at professional conferences

2013.  Williams SA, Churchill SE, Ostrofsky KR, Schmid P, Frater N, Berger LR. The number of vertebrae in early hominins: insights from Australopithecus sediba. Accepted for the 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

2013.  Shattuck MR, Williams SA, accepted. The evolution of brain size and longevity in mammals. Accepted for the 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

2013.  Petrullo LA, Shattuck MR, Williams SA. Extensive convergence between giant panda and hominoid vertebral formulae. Accepted for the 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

2012.  Williams SA. Variation in hominoid vertebral formulae: implications for the evolution of the hominin vertebral column. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 54: 304. Accepted for the 2013 meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

2011.  Williams SA. Evolutionary history of the hominoid vertebral formula. Am. J. Phys.
Anthropol. Suppl. 52: 257.

2011.  Roseman CC, Williams SA, Grabowski MW, O'Connor C, Cheverud J, Polk JD. A genotypephenotype map of a mammalian pelvis using a mouse model. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 52: 312-313.

2010.  Williams SA. Morphological integration and the knuckle-walking complex: implications for the evolution of knuckle-walking and bipedalism. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 50: 244.

2010.  Williams SA. Numerical composition of the vertebral column: implications for hominoid
evolution. Midwest Primate Interest Group, Chicago, IL. Podium presentation.

2009.  Williams SA. Modularity in the hominoid vertebral column: implications for the evolution of orthogrady. Am. J. of Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 47: 426.

2009.  Shattuck MR, Williams SA. The influence of arboreality on longevity in mammals: a test of the evolutionary theory of aging. Am. J. of Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 47: 366.

2008.  Williams SA, Grabowski MW, Polk JD, Roseman CC. Phenotypic integration and evolution in the African ape third manual ray. Am. J. of Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 46: 223.

2008.  Grabowski MW, Williams SA, Roseman CC, Polk JD. Phenotypic integration in the macaque postcranial skeleton. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 46: 106.

2008.  Polk JD, Peterson J, Williams SA. Sexual dimorphism, body size, and joint posture in primates. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Suppl. 46: 173.

2008.  Williams SA, Shattuck MR. Arboreality and longevity in mammals. Presented at the Midwest Primate Interest Group, Notre Dame, IN.

2006.  Williams SA. Variation in the African ape third manual ray. Presented at the Midwest Primate Interest Group, Urbana, IL.

Current News/Projects
Updated August 2014

I am an evolutionary morphologist and paleoanthropologist with primary research interests in the evolution of positional behavior (posture and locomotion) during human evolution. My research focus is not on a particular time period; rather, I am interested in evolutionary transitions in the hominoid fossil record, from 20 million-year-old extinct apes to modern human and ape variation and the entirety of human evolution in between. The major focus of my academic work has been on the primate postcranial skeleton and specifically the vertebral column (spine). I have worked to describe and analyze in a large comparative dataset the vertebral column of a new species of early hominin, Australopithecus sediba. Late last year, I was part of a team that excavated and cataloged a large number of hominin fossils at Rising Star Cave in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. I worked with an international team of researchers this summer to describe what is likely a new and surprising species of hominin that will undoubtedly alter the way we think about human evolution.

I continue to teach undergraduate courses like Human Evolution, Human Origins, Problems and Perspectives in Human Evolution, and Evolution and Biology of Human Behavior, along with graduate courses like Interpreting Human Skeletal Morphology and Integrative Paleoanthropology I. I hope to offer new graduate and undergraduate courses in the future. I have also been invited to give talks, both internally at NYU (Evening Evolution Group, Center for Genomics and Systems Biology) and at other universities (Yale, Stony Brook, and CUNY). In 2012 and 2013, I served on the American Association of Physical Anthropologists Program Committee, and, since January 2014  I have served as Associate Editor at the Journal of Human Evolution. I am also a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Human Evolution (B.A. Wood, ed. 2013 and online).

In addition to continuing PhD students, Cody Prang and Jenny Eyre, Dr. Gabrielle Russo worked with me as a post-doctoral researcher in the Spring of 2014. We are currently finalizing several research projects on fossil hominin vertebrae and a comparative study of the ursid (bear) vertebral column, with implications for the evolution of convergent traits in hominoids (apes). This fall, Alex DeCasien joins the PhD program to work with me and Dr. James Higham on skeletal correlates of sexual selection.

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