In South Africa, the Plio-Pleistocene hominin fossil record is represented by a diversity of species within the genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and Homo. In some cases, species overlapped in time and space. The successful candidate for this position will extract ancient protein remains from Plio-Pleistocene hominin dental enamel specimens from South Africa. The candidate will then reconstruct dental enamel protein sequences and will compare them to the homologous ones from modern and extinct hominin species to infer the phylogenetic position of Paranthropus robustus, Australopithecus africanus, and potentially other species, in the hominin tree. Such an achievement will represent a breakthrough in biomolecular-based hominin phylogeny as both ancient DNA and ancient skeletal proteins are generally considered challenging to retrieve from the Early Pleistocene African hominin fossil record. Specimens will be made available, and data interpretation to reconstruct hominin relations will be conducted in collaboration with Professor Rebecca Ackermann (University of Cape Town, South Africa), an expert in the South African hominin fossil record.
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