Michael Hanks

Michael Hanks

Profile Display Name:

Michael Hanks

E-mail Address:


Start Year

2015 (Cohort 2)

Research interests:

Human evolution, life history theory, cognitive evolution, evolution of cooperation.

Hobbies and interests:

PhD Project
PhD Title

A model for human evolution in Europe

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



Multiple models have been proposed for the colonisation of Eurasia by Homo sapiens. With new fossil evidence challenging previous claims, it is important that we can create new frameworks to test new and existing theories for the pattern and timing of migrations out of Africa. This project proposes to utilise cutting-edge methods in phylogenetic inference with the largest dataset of dental characteristics ever assembled for such a purpose to create such a framework. Teeth offer us an ideal opportunity to build such a framework for two reasons: 1. Being the hardest substance in the human body, they are also the most commonly preserved in the fossil record, providing us with a wide range of evidence, both spatially and temporally. 2. Variation in dental morphology is highly heritable making it suitable for establishing phylogenetic relationships between different populations. With the framework in place different models of human migration patterns can be assessed for their fit to the data, allowing us to compare the likelihoods of these models directly. This will bring resolution to questions such as: Were multiple migrations out of Africa responsible for the population of Europe and Asia, or was there a single migration? Did climate change in the Pleistocene affect migrations, through cutting off access between continents at certain times, or creating shifting patterns of refugia and expansions?

Policy Impact

We understand dissemination of science as an engine for economic and cultural growth, and thus for the wellbeing of society. To cite an example, Deloitte Consultant has assessed that the economical impact since 2012 of the Atapuerca sites that are part of this project was about 92 million euros and implied the creation of 1130 new related job positions.

Background Reading
  • Martinón-Torres, M., Bermúdez de Castro, J.M. et al. 2007. Dental evidence on the hominin dispersals during the Pleistocene. Proceedings of Natural Academy of Sciences of USA 104 (33)
  • Bermúdez de Castro, J.M. and Martinón-Torres, M. 2013. A new model for the evolution of the human Pleistocene populations of Europe. Quaternary International 295102–112
  • Dennell, R., Martinón-Torres, M., Bermúdez de Castro, J.M. 2011. Hominin variability, climatic instability and population demography in Middle Pleistocene Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews Volume 30, 1511–1524
  • Publications



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