Samar Syeda

PhD student, Biological Anthropology
 Samar Syeda


PhD project: Reconstructing hand use in external and internal morphology of hominoid phalanges

Samar is studying the external and internal morphology of manual phalanges (fingers). Using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) data, her research aims to reconstruct manual behaviours of our early human relatives (hominins) through a comparative analysis of internal cortical bone structure and geometric morphometric shape analysis in great apes, humans, and fossil hominins.

Reconstructing the behaviours of early hominins contribute to our understanding of major evolutionary trends and transitions in human evolutionary history and has direct implications for understanding what makes us human today. Understanding the relationship between skeletal biomechanics and morphology can inform us about how the skeletons of living primates are adapted for their specific lifestyles, including the mechanical constraints placed on their skeletons in regard to their locomotor repertoire and behavioural capabilities. Manual phalanges are one of the best regions of the skeleton to reconstruct behaviour from since our fingers interact directly with the environment during locomotion (in non-human primates) and during manipulation. This study will quantify, for the first time, cortical bone distribution in the shafts of manual phalanges and a detailed study on the external shape of the phalanges in humans and great apes, in order to find correlations between their anatomy and locomotion which can provide insight into how fossil hominins may have moved in their environments.

Prior to starting her PhD, Samar completed a BSc in Human Evolutionary Biology, BA in Anthropology at Stony Brook University, and a MSc in Biological Anthropology at the University of Kent. Her undergraduate dissertation investigated the evolution of primate limb lengths across a broad sample of monkeys, apes, and a fossil hominins. Her Masters’ project used micro-CT data to study the curvature, flexor sheath ridge morphology, and cross-sectional geometry of phalanges in great apes, humans, and fossil Australopithecus sediba. During her time at Stony Brook, Samar attended the Turkana Basin Institute summer field school where she participated in ecological surveys and paleoanthropological excavations (e.g. Lomekwi 3 and sites near Lothagam).  

Research interests

Fossil hominin hand use and behaviour; skeletal functional morphology; origin of human bipedalism



Last updated