Mass digitization of fossil primates from Bridger Basin field localities in Wyoming.

This project involves the curation and mass digitization of Paleogene primate fossils collected from field localities in the Bridger Basin of Wyoming. This work is being done in collaboration with Doug Boyer at Duke University and Jonathan Bloch at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Though notharctine adapiforms are some of the most abundantly and completely preserved early primates, study of their anatomy has been limited by the difficulty involved in accessing, identifying and measuring fossil specimens. Currently, we are microCT scanning key collections of nothartctine specimens at the Smithsonian (NMNH), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and several other institutions and organizing a 3D virtual collection that will be made openly accessible to all through the web archive MorphoSource. We are also digital preparing three nearly complete adapiform skeletons, discovered in 2015, with the specific focus of preserving in situ bone positions.

When complete, this collection will represent the richest source of anatomical data for any fossil primate yet developed.

Our digital collection is coming soon! -


CBS North Carolina -

Collaborative Field Work: FESD - Amazon Andes Geogenomics

FESD - Amazon Andes field expeditions, Peru. PIs: Paul Baker, Catherine Rigsby, Sheri Fritz, Richard Kay, etc.

The Amazon basin represents a hotspot of biodiversity that is unparalleled in number of plant species and ecological diversity. However, the timing and geological context with which this diversity was arose is still hotly debated.

This NSF sponsored project includes a large multidisciplinary team of geologists, climatologists, and biologists who aim to use an integrated approach to understanding how climate and geology interact to shape the distribution and generation of biodiversity in Amazon/Andean forests through time. 

As part of this team, I am working with paleontologists and geologists from Duke University, Yachay Tech (Ecuador) and Universidad de Piura (Peru) to identify new paleontological localities in the lowland basins of Peru. We are currently undertaking surveys of the Madre de Dios River to identify new paleontological localities. In conjunction with our survey efforts, we have just begun to fully inventory the Alto Madre de Dios faunal assemblage, with the goal of updating the species list for this site, and conducting a thorough paleoecological study of this assemblage.

You can read more about this field work in Science Magazine

Photographer - Jason Houston

Dissertation Research: Intra and Interspecific Variation in Primate Semicircular Canal Morphology.

The inner ear structures of humans and primates include three fluid-filled semicircular canals. These canals detect head rotation during locomotion in order to stabilize vision for balance. The shape of the canals in living primate species reflects whether that species favors fast or slow body movements. As such, it is thought that studying the semicircular canals of fossil primates will yield information about locomotion behaviors of extinct species. 

My dissertation research documents intraspecific variation (variation between different individuals of the same species) in the size, shape, and orientation of the semicircular canals in relation to changes in canal function, brain size, and body size. This is accomplished by analyzing high-resolution CT scans of numerous individuals of modern primate species. My goal has been to provide a more accurate foundation for the interpretation of the canal shape/locomotion relationship.

To access CT scans generated for this work, visit the Gonzales Skull Project at


Leakey Foundation - 2015 - Click Here

Brain evolution in Miocene Old World monkeys

The skull of the 15 ma Old World monkey, Victoriapithecus, is the only complete catarrhine skull between 32 and 7 Myr ago, from which we can get direct measurements of brain size and a more complete understanding of the evolutionary processes that shaped the modern monkey brain. CT analyses of this unique 15 Myr old cranium has unexpectedly revealed a much smaller brain size than expected and large olfactory bulbs, similar in size to strepsirrhines of comparable body size. This work has been done in collaboration with Brenda Benefit and Monte McCrossin (New Mexico State University) and Fred Spoor (University College London, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) in order to describe the cerebral organization that would have characterized the earliest Old World monkeys.

Gonzales, Lauren A., Benefit, Brenda R., McCrossin, Monte L., Spoor, F. 2015. Cerebral complexity preceded enlarged brain size and reduced olfactory bulbs in Old World monkeys. Nature Communications. 6.


Science News - 2015 - Click Here

Huffington Post - 2015 - Click Here

Nature Blogs - 2010 AAPA meeting presentation - Click Here


Jonathan Bloch (Vertebrate Paleontology, Florida Museum of Natural History)

Doug Boyer (Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University)

David Blackburn (Herpetology, Florida Museum of Natural History)

Richard Kay (Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University)

Paul Baker (Earth and Ocean Sciences, Duke University)

Jean-Noël Martinez (Institute of Paleontology, Universidad de Piura)

Brenda Benefit (Department of Anthropology, New Mexico State University)