Kevin Hunt

Kevin Hunt

Professor, Anthropology

Adjunct Professor, Biology


  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Michigan (1989)
  • M.A. in Anthropology, University of Michigan (1982)
  • B.A. in Anthropology College Scholars, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1980)

Research interests

Since we can never study our ancestors directly, we must rely on their traces to understand them. The earliest members of our lineage, the australopithecines, are quite ape-like, which means that we must turn to chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates for hints about how they behaved, and why human evolution took its peculiar course.

In my research I use what I learn from chimpanzee locomotion, posture and ecology to better understand what led humans to diverge from apes, in particular, what advantage bipedalism gave our chimpanzee-like ancestors some 5 million years ago.

I attempt to link specific anatomical features in chimpanzees and australopithecines with specific behaviors. I use these links to trace the path of human evolution, particularly through reconstruction of their foraging habits. In my research muscular and skeletal form are treated as engineering problems, and the "design" of the animal is treated as a solution to the need to perform a particular activity (e.g., running, arm-hanging). Ecological study is linked because the body (teeth, jaws, hands, limbs ­ even brain) is really a food-getting machine. Once a secure link between a particular behavior or dietary item and an anatomical feature is made, we can turn this link back on the fossils and reconstruct their behavior. In short, our ancestors' bodies can be understood as complicated machines oriented toward certain tasks.

Representative publications

Estimators of fruit abundance of tropical trees.(1992)
Colin A Chapman, Lauren J Chapman, Richard Wangham, Kevin Hunt, Daniel Gebo and Leah Gardner
Biotropica, 527-531

Dietary response of chimpanzees and cercopithecines to seasonal variation in fruit abundance. I. Antifeedants.(1998)
Richard W Wrangham, Nancy Lou Conklin-Brittain and Kevin D Hunt
International Journal of Primatology, 19 (6), 949-970

Demography, female life history, and reproductive profiles among the chimpanzees of Mahale.(2003)
Toshisada Nishida, Nadia Corp, Miya Hamai, Toshikazu Hasegawa, Mariko Hiraiwa‐Hasegawa, Kazuhiko Hosaka ...
American Journal of Primatology: Official Journal of the American Society of Primatologists, 59 (3), 99-121

Positional behavior of Pan troglodytes in the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks, Tanzania.(1992)
Kevin D Hunt
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 87 (1), 83-105

Standardized descriptions of primate locomotor and postural modes.(1996)
Kevin D Hunt, John GH Cant, Daniel L Gebo, Michael D Rose, Suzanne E Walker and Dionisios Youlatos
Primates, 37 (4), 363-387

The evolution of human bipedality: ecology and functional morphology.(1994)
Kevin D Hunt
Journal of human evolution, 26 (3), 183-202

Dietary response of chimpanzees and cercopithecines to seasonal variation in fruit abundance. II. Macronutrients.(1998)
Nancy Lou Conklin-Brittain, Richard W Wrangham and Kevin D Hunt
International Journal of Primatology, 19 (6), 971-998

The significance of fibrous foods for Kibale Forest chimpanzees.(1991)
RW Wrangham, NL Conklin, CA Chapman and KD Hunt
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 334 (1270), 171-178

Gradual change in human tooth size in the late Pleistocene and post‐Pleistocene.(1987)
C Loring Brace, Karen R Rosenberg and Kevin D Hunt
Evolution, 41 (4), 705-720

What big teeth you had grandma! Human tooth size, past and present.(1991)
C Loring Brace
Advances in dental anthropology, 33-57

Positional behavior in the Hominoidea.(1991)
Kevin D Hunt
International Journal of Primatology, 12 (2), 95-118

A nonracial craniofacial perspective on human variation: A (ustralia) to Z (uni).(1990)
C Loring Brace and Kevin D Hunt
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 82 (3), 341-360

Mechanical implications of chimpanzee positional behavior.(1991)
Kevin D Hunt
American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 86 (4), 521-536

Chimpanzees in the dry habitats of Assirik, Senegal and Semliki wildlife reserve, Uganda.(2002)
Behavioural diversity in chimpanzees and bonobos, 35-51

The value of figs to chimpanzees.(1993)
RW Wrangham, NL Conklin, G Etot, J Obua, KD Hunt, MD Hauser ...
International Journal of Primatology, 14 (2), 243-256