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Susan Larson

PhD, University of Wisconsin, 1982


(631) 444-3115

Research: Primate and human anatomy, experimental functional morphology and biomechanics, human and primate evolution.

Dr. Larson's research centers on the functional interpretation of primate and human postcranial morphology focusing on the use of experimental techniques to test hypothesized relationships between form and function. Some of these techniques include kinematic motion analysis, force plate studies, and cineradiography. However, most of Dr. Larson's research involves the analysis of muscle function using the technique of electromyography (EMG). Much of this research has concerned shoulder muscle function in nonhuman primates, on which she has published several papers in collaboration with Jack T. Stern. This interest in shoulder morphology and evolution has recently led to her participation in the original description and analysis of the upper limb remains of the enigmatic hominin fossil, Homo floresiensis.

Dr. Larson is currently involved in a project that will use state-of-the-art computer modeling and lab-based experimental techniques to study the mechanics, energetics, and control of bipedal locomotion in chimpanzees. In collaboration with researchers at UMASS Amherst, a computer model of the chimpanzee musculoskeletal system will be developed that can be used to generate simulations of bipedal walking. Dr. Larson’s research will contribute to the empirically derived locomotor data set that will be used in the construction of the model. The simulated bipedalism generated from this empirically validated chimpanzee musculoskeletal model can be used to evaluate the impact of specific morphological adaptations that have been proposed to play a role in the evolution of human bipedalism. Together, these modeling and experimental investigations will be used to reconstruct the most likely manner in which the australopithecine ancestors of humans walked on two legs, and by so doing, determine if australopithecine bipedality was transitional between that of apes and humans.