Thomas Cody Prang is a paleoanthropologist with research interests in human evolution, functional morphology, and locomotion. His research aims to understand how locomotor behavior has evolved in primates with particular emphasis on early humans and apes. He uses a range of digital methodologies in his research including traditional comparative approaches, three-dimensional shape analysis, and evolutionary quantitative methods.
One current project includes the morphological reconstruction of the last common ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees. The morphology and inferred positional behavior of the LCA influences the range of possible explanations for the origin of human upright walking, also known as bipedalism. The evolutionary position of humans within the African great ape clade implies that bipedalism was derived from an African ape-like ancestor. This project uses the morphology of living and extinct primates to generate inferences about the LCA. The analysis of fossils attributed to Ardipithecus ramidus has been a major component of this project.
A second project is focused on testing hypotheses about the link between morphology and performance in the foot and ankle of humans and non-human primates. The ultimate goal of this project is to generate empirically-informed inferences about performance based on the morphology of fossil hominins. Specifically, this project is currently focused on the functional morphology of the human talus, calcaneus, and midfoot.
Dr. Prang is also currently analyzing fossil hominin feet from the Plio-Pleistocene of Ethiopia and Kenya, and fossil hominoid material from the Miocene of Kenya.