School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Matthew Skinner

Senior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology

Human evolution, dental anthropology, skeletal functional morphology, growth and development of hard tissues


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Matthew Skinner is a paleoanthropologist whose research focuses on the analysis of teeth and bones to answer questions about the growth and development, diet, taxonomy and evolutionary history of living and extinct primates, including fossil hominins. Specifically, he is interested in taxonomic diversity and evolutionary history of humans and apes, dental tissue development in the present and past, and form/function relationships in the primate skeleton.

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Skinner, MM, Stephens, NB, Tsegai, ZJ, Foote, AC, Nguyen, NH, Gross, T, Pahr, DH, Hublin, J-J, Kivell, TL. Human-like hand use in Australopithecus africanus, 23 January 2015, 347:395.



Full Text:

Gross, T, Kivell, TL, Skinner, MM, Nguyen, NH, Pahr, DH. 2014. A CT-image-based framework for the holistic analysis of cortical and trabecular bone morphology. Palaeontologia Electronica Vol. 17, Issue 3;33A; 13p; 2014/889-holistic-analysis-of-bone.

Nguyen, NH, Pahr, DH, Gross, T, Skinner, MM, Kivell, TL. Micro-finite element (µFE) modeling of the siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) third proximal phalanx: the functional role of curvature and the flexor sheath ridge. Journal of Human Evolution 67: 60-75.

Martínez de Pinillos, M, Martinón-Torres, M, Skinner, MM, Arsuaga, JL, Gracia-Téllez, A, Martínez, I, Martín-Francés, L, Bermúdez de Castro, JM. Trigonid crests expression in Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos lower molars: internal and external morphological expression and evolutionary inferences. C.R. Palevol. 13, 205-221.

Martinón-Torres, M, Martínez de Pinillos, M, Skinner, MM, Martín-Francés, L, Gracia-Téllez, A, Martínez, I, Arsuaga, JL, Bermúdez de Castro, JM. Talonid crests expression at the enamel-dentine junction of hominin lower permanent and deciduous molars. C.R. Palevol. 13, 223-234.

Crevecoeur I, Skinner MM, Bailey SE, Gunz P, Bortoluzzi S, et al. (2014) First Early Hominin from Central Africa (Ishango, Democratic Republic of Congo). PLoS ONE 9(1): e84652. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084652.

Soressi, M, McPherron, S, Lenoir, M, Dogandzic, T, Goldberg, P, Jacobs, Z, Maigrot, Y, Martisius, NL, Miller, CE, Rendu, W, Richards, M, Skinner, MM, Steele, TE, Talamo, S, Texier, J-P. Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe. PNAS 10:14186-14190.

Tsegai, Z, Kivell, TL, Gross, T, Pahr, DH, Nguyen, NH, Smaers, JB, Skinner, MM. Trabecular bone structure correlated with hand posture and use in hominoids. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78781. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078781.

Wollny, G, Kellman, P, Ledesma-Carbayo, M-J, Skinner, MM, Hublin, J-J, Hierl, T, 2013. MIA – a free and open source software for gray scale medical image analysis. Source Code Biol. Med. 8:20.       

Skinner, MM, Kivell, TL, Potze, S, Hublin, J-J. Microtomographic archive of fossil hominin specimens from Kromdraai B, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 64: 434-447.

Moore, NC, Skinner, MM, Hublin, J-J. Premolar root morphology and metric variation in Pan troglodytes verus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 150: 632-646.

Skinner, MF, Skinner, MM, Boesch, C. Developmental defects of the dental crown in chimpanzees from the Taï National Park, Côte D‘Ivoire: coronal waisting. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149: 272-282.

Anemone, RL, Skinner, MM, and Dirks, W. Are there two distinct types of hypocone in Eocene primates? The ‘pseudohypocone’ of notharctines revisited. Palaeontologia Electronica 15, Issue 3;26A,13p

Ortiz, A, Skinner, MM, Bailey, SE, Hublin, J-J. Carabelli’s trait revisted: an examination of mesiolingual features at the enamel-dentine junction and enamel surface of Pan and Homo sapiens upper molars. Journal of Human Evolution 63: 586-596.

Smith, TM, Olejniczak, AO, Zermeno, JP, Tafforeau, P, Skinner, MM, Hoffman, A, Radovčić, J, Toussaint, M, Kruszynski, R, Menter, C, Moggi-Cecchi, J, Glasmacher, UA, Kullmer, O, Schrenk, F, Stringer, C, Hublin, J-J. Variation in enamel thickness within the genus Homo. Journal of Human Evolution 62: 395-411.

Smith, TM, Kupczik, K, Machanda, Z, Skinner, MM, Zermeno, JP. Enamel thickness in Bornean and Sumatran orangutan dentitions. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147: 417-426.

Bailey, SE, Skinner, MM, Hublin, J-J. What lies beneath? An evaluation of the mid-trigonid crest dental trait based on both dentine and enamel expression. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 145: 505-518.

Lazenby, R, Skinner, MM, Kivell, TL, Hublin, J-J. Scaling VOI size in 3D µCT studies of trabecular bone: a test of the over-sampling hypothesis. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 144: 196-203.       

Kivell, TL, Skinner, MM, Lazenby, R, Hublin, J-J. Methodological considerations for analyzing trabecular architecture: an example from the primate hand. Journal of Anatomy 218: 209-225.

Lazenby, RA, Skinner, MM, Hublin, J-J, Boesch, C. Metacarpal trabecular architecture in the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): Evidence for locomotion and tool use. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 144: 215-225.

Skinner, MM, Gunz, P. The presence of accessory cusps in chimpanzee lower molars is consistent with a patterning cascade model of development. Journal of Anatomy  217:245-253.

Skinner, MM, Evans, A, Smith, T, Jernvall, J, Tafforeau, P, Kupczik, K, Olejniczak, AJ, Rosas, A, Radovčić, J, Thackeray, JF, Toussaint, M, Hublin, J-J. Brief communication: Contributions of enamel-dentine junction shape and enamel deposition to primate molar crown complexity. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 142: 157-163.

Skinner, MM, Gunz, P, Wood, BA, Hublin, J-J (2009) Discrimination of extant Pan species and subspecies using the enamel-dentine junction morphology of lower molars. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140: 234-243.

Skinner, MM, Gunz, P, Wood, BA, Hublin, J-J. How many landmarks? Assessing classification accuracy of Pan lower molars using geometric morphometric analysis of the occlusal basin as seen at the EDJ. . In: Eds. Koppe, T, Meyer, G, Alt, KW. Comparative Dental Morphology. Karger, Basel, pp. 23-29.

Kupczik, K, Olejniczak, AJ, Skinner, MM, Hublin, J-J (2009) Molar crown and root size relationships in anthropoid primates. In: Eds. Koppe, T, Meyer, G, Alt, KW. Comparative Dental Morphology. Karger, Basel, pp. 16-22.

Skinner, MM, Wood, BA, Hublin, J-J (2009) Protostylid expression at the outer enamel surface and at the enamel-dentine junction of mandibular molars of Paranthropus robustus and Australopithecus africanus. Journal of Human Evolution 56: 76-85.

Skinner, MM, Gunz, P, Wood, BA, Hublin, J-J (2008) Enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) morphology distinguishes the lower molars of Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus. Journal of Human Evolution 55: 979-988.

Olejniczak, AJ, Smith, TM, Skinner, MM, Grine, FE, Feeney, RNM, Thackeray, JF, and Hublin, J-J (2008) Three-dimensional molar enamel distribution and thickness in Australopithecus and Paranthropus. Biology Letters 4: 406-410.

Olejniczak, AJ, Smith, TM, Feeney, RNM, Macchiarelli, R, Mazurier, A, Bondioli, L, Rosas, A, Fortea, J, de la Rasilla, M, Garcia-Tabernero, A, Radovčić, J, Skinner, MM, Toussaint, M, Hublin, J-J (2008) Dental tissue proportions and enamel thickness in Neandertal and modern human molars. Journal of Human Evolution 55: 12-23

Skinner, MM, Wood, BA, Boesch, C, Olejniczak, AJ, Rosas, A, Smith, TS, Hublin, J-J (2008) Dental trait expression at the enamel-dentine junction of lower molars in extant and fossil hominoids. Journal of Human Evolution 54: 173-186.

Skinner, MM, Gordon, AG, Collard, NJ (2006) Mandibular size and shape variation in the hominins at Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia. Journal of Human Evolution 51: 36-49.

Skinner, MM, Wood, BA (2006) The evolution of modern human life history – a paleontological perspective. In: Eds. K. Hawkes and R. Paine. The Evolution of Modern Human Life History. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, pp. 331-400.

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Teaching interests:
Human and primate evolution, osteology, functional morphology, quantitative methods, digital imaging


  • SE302: Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE533: Project in Anthropological Science
  • SE541: The Evolution of Hominin Behaviour
  • SE567: Methodology in Anthropological Science
  • SE570: Current Issues in Evolutionary Anthropology
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Research Projects
I have been involved in a number of significant research projects:

  • GRASP  Evolution of the human hand: Grasping trees and tools (funded by European Research Council Starting Grant 2014-2019) click here
  • Tooth structure in extant and fossil primates:  Examination of the two primary tissues of primate teeth, enamel and dentine to 1) improve our understanding of the processes underlying tooth shape, and 2) use tooth structure to contribute to our understanding of the evolutionary history of humans (including our fossil relatives). This research covers the whole period of human evolution and examines fossils from Africa, Europe and Asia.
  • Developmental stress in chimpanzees: Investigating the prevalence and underlying cause of developmental stress in chimpanzees as manifested in their dental tissues.
  • Fossil hominin and hominoid hand use: Comparative investigation of fossil hominin (australopiths to Neandertals) and Miocene hominoid hand remains using morphometric and micro-CT data. This research aims to shed light on locomotor and tool-use behaviours throughout the evolution of the human lineage. With Tracy Kivell (Kent).
  • Functional signals in trabecular and cortical bone structure: A comparative investigation of internal bony morphology of the primate hand to assess variation in joint loading patterns and how this reflects differences in locomotor and manipulative behaviours. With Tracy Kivell (Kent).

Principal Collaborators:
Jean-Jacques Hublin, Director of the Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Tracy Kivell, School for Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent
Mark F. Skinner, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University
Philipp Gunz, Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Dieter Pahr, Institute of Lightweight Design and Structural Biomechanics, Vienna University of Technology
Christophe Boesch, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Shara Bailey, Department of Anthropology, New York University)

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I can offer supervision of PhD and MA/MSc research within any of my areas of interest – skeletal biology, dental development and morphology, and functional morphology of the postcranial skeleton, including external and internal (using microCT data) bony morphology.

Principal Supervisor
Collin Nathaniel Moore “Premolar root morphology in extant and fossil apes” (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Zewdi Tsegai (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)
Nicholas Stephens (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology)

Past Masters students
Robert Martin (2014, UCL Anthropology) – The morphology of the enamel-dentine junction in Neanderthal molars
Hazel Nunn (2014, UCL Anthropology) - Hand proportions and body mass in primates
Emma Bird (2014, UCL Archaeology) - Getting in touch with the hominoid wrist: locomotion, mobility, and trabecular bone structure in the capitate
Sheona Shankland (2014, UCL Archaeology) - The primate wrist: an investigation into the locomotory and manipulatory signals in the trabecular structure of the scaphoid and lunate
Alexandra Foote (2013, UCL Anthropology) - Getting a grip on the past: Trabecular structure in the fifth metacarpal head of extant and fossil hominoids
Caroline Broms (2013, UCL Anthropology) - Getting to the root of the matter: dental development in South African hominins, revisited.
Rebecca Davenport (2013, UCL Anthropology) - Does internal bone structure of the humerus reflect locomotor behavior in extant apes and fossil hominins?
Rizwaan Abbas (2013, UCL Archaeology) - Piltdown Man or Half-Ourang? A geometric Morphometric Analysis of the Piltdown Molars
Megan Arkell (2013, UCL Archaeology) - Dental Morphology in South African hominin upper molars: enamel-dentin junction morphology, discrete traits, and species diversity
Rhianna Drummond-Clarke (2013, UCL Earth Science) – Did Rudapithecus hungaricus play a role in the evolution of African apes?
Dorien de Vries (2012, UCL Archaeology) - Taxonomic assessment of the BH-1 specimen of Mala Balanica, Serbia, based on its lower molar morphology
Charles Clarke (2012, UCL Archaeology) - Analysis of the enamel-dentine junction of eastern and southern African hominins: taxonomic classification of the enigmatic molar from Gondolin, South Africa revisited
Myriam van Walsum (2012, UCL Archaeology) - Protostylid of A. africanus and P. robustus at the enamel-dentine junction
Nick Stephens (2012, UCL Archaeology) - Trabecular bone architecture in the thumb of recent Homo sapiens, Pan, and Late Pleistocene Homo
Zewdi Tsegai (2012, UCL Anthropology) - Does internal bone structure of the hominoid hand reflect locomotor behaviour?

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I am currently an associate editor for the Journal of Human Evolution.

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I am available to provide topical comment or in-depth discussion of topics related to human and primate evolution, the African human fossil record, the function of the human skeleton, and the evolution of teeth.

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Last Updated: 10/03/2015