Darwin Evolving: Distinguished Naturalists

Dr. Alan Walker March 4, 2009

Alan Walker

"Humans in an evolutionary context"

As people grow up they develop the illusion that they are an entirely individual being. But we are really complete ecosystems with our own bacterial flora and fauna and parasites and much of our genome, even, made of viral sequences. Although we imagine ourselves to be perfectly integrated functional entities, we are made of parts that have been added together and adjusted through evolutionary compromise over enormous amounts of time. Some of our parts have ancient origins and others have been added much later. The fossil record, comparative anatomy, and genomics allows us to tell which parts were added when, and in some cases why.


Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology, Pennsylvania State University, MacArthur Fellow, Fellow of the Royal Society, National Academy of Science member. Dr. Walker is a paleoanthropologist who works on primate and human evolution, concentrating mainly on the record from East Africa. His recent books include Wisdom of the Bones (1997) and The Ape in the Tree (2005) (both with Pat Shipman).