Nicole Grunstra


Adjunct postdoc researcher

 About me

I am an evolutionary anthropologist and I am interested in macroevolutionary patterns of trait evolution and adaptive phenotype-environment associations and how such patterns relate to microevolutionary processes and developmental constraints. To this end, I study the relationship between within- and between-species patterns of variation.

My PhD work (Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge) focused on the relationship between the environmental conditions and variational constraints on evolutionary diversification in the craniodental phenotype of macaques (Cercopithecidae: Macaca). I used traditional morphometrics, multivariate statistics, and phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate the variational properties of gross dental morphology, phenotype-environment associations, and the relative importance of adaptive versus neutral processes in the genus Macaca.

In the department of Theoretical Biology at the University of Vienna, I have been using 3D geometric morphometrics and digital imaging techniques to investigate primate cranial morphology from a novel perspective. I work on several projects (with Dr. Philipp Mitteroecker and Silvester Bartsch) that address how overall cranial form is realized by the contribution of individual cranial bones on developmental as well as evolutionary time scales. As part of this work, I test hypotheses of adaptive and neutral evolutionary signals in the primate cranium.

Moreover, I conduct theoretical and empirical work on the mammalian bony pelvis (pelvic shape and pubic symphysis morphology) in pursuit of understanding the evolution of pelvic morphology and difficult childbirth in humans. To this end, I study the associations between pelvic morphology and positional behavior, neonatal size and life history using a phylogenetic comparative approach. A key aim is to test the pelvic floor hypothesis of why humans evolved a narrow birth canal in relation to their large-bodied neonates.