PhD, Harvard University, 1976
Dr. Fleagle's research involves many aspects of evolutionary biology of higher primates, including laboratory studies of the comparative and functional anatomy of extant primates, and paleontological field research in Africa, South America, and Asia. Current research projects are concerned with four areas: (1) the evolution of monkeys, apes and humans in Africa and Asia, (2) the evolutionary history of New World monkeys, (3) ecological comparison of primate communities, and (4) comparative primate cranial morphology.
1. The evolution of catarrhine primates - monkeys, apes and humans- is documented in extensive fossil deposits from Africa and Asia. Laboratory studies have been used to to reconstruct the behavioral abilities of fossil monkeys and apes from Eocene through Miocene and to understand their evolutionary relationships to the living anthropoids. Recent studies have concentrated on the adaptations and phylogeny of African mangabeys and baboons. Dr. Fleagle has been involved in numerous field projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, and India aimed at recovering new fossil remains for understanding catarrhine evolution.
2. The platyrrhine monkeys of South and Central America are a diverse radiation of higher primates that has evolved in the New World over the past 25 million years or more. However, the fossil record is very poor and their phylogeny is unresolved. In conjunction with Argentine scientists, fieldwork is underway in southern Argentina along with laboratory studies to understand better the evolutionary history of this group and its relationship to the earlier anthropoids from Africa.
3. There have been numerous studies comparing the behavior and ecology of sympatric primate species within local communities, but we know very little about the differences between primate communities in different parts of the world. Several ongoing research projects have been aimed at comparing communities on different continents and determining the factors underlying their similarities and differences.
4. Although there have been many detailed studies of the cranial anatomy of individual primate clades, broad comparisons of cranial anatomy across the Order are notably lacking. Ongoing collaborative research is aimed at characterizing patterns of cranial evolution and morphological diversity among living and fossil primates.