Herman Pontzer

Associate Professor Department of Anthropology Hunter College and The Graduate Center City University of New York


B.A. 1999, Penn State University M.A. 2003, Harvard University Ph.D. 2006, Harvard University



Website: pages.nycep.org/pontzer/Pontzer_Lab.html

Overview of Research

I'm interested in linking energetics and functional morphology to ecology in the great apes and humans. How do the energetic physiology and musculoskeletal anatomy of apes and humans reflect our ecological niche and evolutionary history?

My research uses a combined modeling and experimental approach to test hypotheses regarding selection pressures shaping metabolic physiology and functional anatomy in apes, humans, and extinct hominins. I investigate these hypotheses by measuring metabolic energy expenditure in apes, humans, and other species, and by exploring optimal control and morphological solutions to different selection pressures through numerical and computer modeling.

I'm currently involved in a multiyear project to measure daily energy use in the great apes and human foragers using the doubly-labeled water method. These measurements are needed to compare and understand the evolved energy-use strategies and evolutionary trajectories of the great apes and humans. I'm also involved in the ongoing excavations in the Lower Paleolithic site of Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia. Fieldwork there provides an exciting opportunity to apply results from the lab to the fossil record. Dated to 1.8 mya, Dmanisi is a particularly interesting site as it's the earliest evidence of hominids (Homo ergaster) outside of Africa.


(pdfs here)

in press

Pontzer, H., Scott, J.R., Lordkipanidze, D., Ungar, P.S. Dental microwear texture analysis and diet in the Dmanisi hominins. J Hum Evol.

Orkin, J., Pontzer, H. The Narrow Niche hypothesis: gray squirrels shed new light on primate origins. Am J Phys Anth. 144, 617-24.

Pontzer, H., Raichlen, D.A., Sockol, M.D. From treadmill to tropics: calculating ranging cost in chimpanzees.  In: D’Aout, K. and Vereecke, E.E. (eds) Studying Primate Locomotion: Linking Laboratory and Field Research. New York, Springer. pp 289-309.


Pontzer, H., Raichlen, D.A., Shumaker, R.W., Ocobock, C., Wich, S.A. Metabolic adaptation for low energy throughput in orangutans. PNAS. 107, 14048-14052.

Pontzer, H., Rolian, C., Rightmire, G.P., Jashashvili, T., Ponce de León, M.S., Lordkipanidze, D., Zollikofer, C.P.E. Locomotor anatomy and biomechanics of the Dmanisi hominins. J Hum Evol. 58, 492-504.

Cowgill, L.W., Warrener, A., Pontzer, H., Ocobock, C. Waddling and toddling: the biomechanical effects of an immature gait. Am J Phys Anth. 143, 52-61.


Pontzer, H., Allen, V., Hutchinson, J.R. Biomechanics of running indicates endothermy in bipedal dinosaurs. PLoS ONE. 4, e7783.

Pontzer, H., Kamilar, J.M. Great ranging associated with greater reproductive investment in mammals. PNAS 106, 192-196.

Raichlen, D.A., Shapiro, L.J., Pontzer, H., Sockol, M.D. Understanding increased hind limb weight support in chimpanzees and the evolution of primate kinetics.  Am J Phys Anth. 138, 395 – 402.

Pontzer, H., Holloway, J., Raichlen, D.A., Lieberman, D.E. Control and function of arm swing in human walking and running.  J Exp Biol. 212, 523-534

Pontzer, H., Raichlen, D.A., Sockol, M.D. The metabolic cost of walking in humans, chimpanzees, and early hominins. J Hum Evol. 56, 43-54.


Raichlen, D.A., Pontzer, H., Sockol, M.D. The Laetoli footprints and early hominin kinematics. J Hum Evol. 54, 112-117

Carter, M.L., Pontzer, H., Wrangham, R.W., Kerbis Peterhans, J. Skeletal pathology in Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Am J Phys Anth. 135, 389-403.


Sockol, M.D., Raichlen, D.A., Pontzer, H. Chimpanzee locomotor energetics and the origin of human bipedalism. PNAS 30, 12265-12269.

Lordkipanidze, D., Jashashvili, T., Vekua, V., Ponce de Leon, M.S., Zollikofer, C.P.E., Rightmire, G.P., Pontzer, H., Ferring, R., Oms, O., Tappen, M., et al. Postcranial evidence from early Homo from Dmanisi, Georgia. Nature. 449, 305-310.

Pontzer, H. Limb length and the scaling of locomotor cost in terrestrial animals. J Exp Biol. 210, 1752-1761.

Pontzer, H. Predicting locomotor cost in terrestrial animals: a test of the LiMb model in humans and quadrupeds. J Exp Biol. 210, 484 – 494.


Lieberman, D.E., Raichlen, D.A., Pontzer, H., Bramble, D.M., Cutright-Smith, E. The human gluteus maximus and its role in running. J Exp Biol. 209, 2143 – 2155.

Pontzer, H., Wrangham, R.W., The ontogeny of ranging in wild chimpanzees.  Int J Primat. 27, 295 – 309.

Pontzer, H., Lieberman, D.E., Momin E., Devlin, M., Polk, J.D., Hallgrimmson, B., Cooper, D.M.L. Trabecular bone in the knee responds with high sensitivity to changes in load orientation. J Exp Biol. 209, 57 – 65.


Pontzer, H. A new model predicting locomotor cost from limb length via force production. J Exp Biol 208, 1513 – 1524.


Pontzer, H., Wrangham R.W. Climbing and the daily energy cost of locomotion in wild chimpanzees: Implications for hominoid locomotor evolution. J Hum Evol. 46, 315 – 333.