Kristian J. Carlson

Professor of Clinical Integrative Anatomical Sciences

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Kristian Carlson was trained as a biological anthropologist in a four-field doctoral program at Indiana University. He completed postdoctoral research in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University (US) and in the Anthropological Institute and Museum at Zurich University (Switzerland).

His multidisciplinary research program combines comparative anatomy, locomotor mechanics, and bone biology to study form and function in the postcranial skeleton of extant primates, including humans, and human ancestors.

As a functional morphologist, he investigates behavioral correlates in the external and internal structure of limb bones from these groups. From a human health or clinical standpoint, this perspective enables understanding the role non-pharmaceutical factors (e.g., activity) may serve in skeletal maintenance, particularly in reducing or preventing unwanted bone loss. From an anthropological or paleontological standpoint, this perspective enables inferring behaviors in extinct organisms, which is particularly useful for reconstructing their behavioral repertoires. Such reconstructions are crucial pieces of evidence in documenting how extinct organisms engaged with their surrounding habitats, and how this interaction may have changed as environments shifted through geological time.

At USC, he teaches human gross anatomy to first and second year medical students in the Keck School of Medicine.


  • J Anat. 2024 Feb; 244(2):274-296. . View in PubMed
  • Morphological and evolutionary insights into the keystone element of the human foot’s medial longitudinal arch Commun Biol. 2023 10 19; 6(1):1061. . View in PubMed
  • Ape femoral-humeral rigidities and arboreal locomotion Am J Biol Anthropol. 2022 12; 179(4):624-639. . View in PubMed
  • Frontal sinuses and human evolution Sci Adv. 2022 10 21; 8(42):eabp9767. . View in PubMed
  • Mechanical compensation in the evolution of the early hominin feeding apparatus Proc Biol Sci. 2022 06 08; 289(1976):20220711. . View in PubMed
  • Morphological description and evolutionary significance of 300 ka hominin facial bones from Hualongdong, China J Hum Evol. 2021 12; 161:103052. . View in PubMed
  • Unique foot posture in Neanderthals reflects their body mass and high mechanical stress J Hum Evol. 2021 12; 161:103093. . View in PubMed
  • The pectoral girdle of StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) and its implications for shoulder evolution in the Hominina J Hum Evol. 2021 09; 158:102983. . View in PubMed
  • Trabecular bone properties in the ilium of the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age Border Cave 3 Homo sapiens infant and the onset of independent gait J Hum Evol. 2021 06; 155:102984. . View in PubMed
  • Late Pleistocene partial femora from Maomaodong, southwestern China J Hum Evol. 2021 06; 155:102977. . View in PubMed
  • Automated resolution independent method for comparing in vivo and dry trabecular bone Am J Phys Anthropol. 2021 04; 174(4):822-831. . View in PubMed
  • Combinations of trabecular and cortical bone properties distinguish various loading modalities between athletes and controls Am J Phys Anthropol. 2021 03; 174(3):434-450. . View in PubMed
  • StW 573 Australopithecus prometheus: Its Significance for an Australopith Bauplan Folia Primatol (Basel). 2021; 92(5-6):243-275. . View in PubMed
  • The upper limb skeleton and behavioral lateralization of modern humans from Zhaoguo Cave, southwestern China Am J Phys Anthropol. 2020 12; 173(4):671-696. . View in PubMed
  • An examination of the cross-sectional geometrical properties of the long bone diaphyses of Holocene foragers from Roonka, South Australia Am J Phys Anthropol. 2020 08; 172(4):682-697. . View in PubMed
  • Morphometric analysis of the hominin talus: Evolutionary and functional implications J Hum Evol. 2020 05; 142:102747. . View in PubMed
  • The influence of mobility strategy on the modern human talus Am J Phys Anthropol. 2020 03; 171(3):456-469. . View in PubMed
  • The atlas of StW 573 and the late emergence of human-like head mobility and brain metabolism Sci Rep. 2020 03 16; 10(1):4285. . View in PubMed
  • The long limb bones of the StW 573 Australopithecus skeleton from Sterkfontein Member 2: Descriptions and proportions J Hum Evol. 2019 08; 133:167-197. . View in PubMed
  • A multiscale stratigraphic investigation of the context of StW 573 ‘Little Foot’ and Member 2, Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa J Hum Evol. 2019 08; 133:78-98. . View in PubMed
  • The bony labyrinth of StW 573 (“Little Foot”): Implications for early hominin evolution and paleobiology J Hum Evol. 2019 02; 127:67-80. . View in PubMed
  • Complex variation of trabecular bone structure in the proximal humerus and femur of five modern human populations Am J Phys Anthropol. 2019 01; 168(1):104-118. . View in PubMed
  • The endocast of StW 573 (“Little Foot”) and hominin brain evolution J Hum Evol. 2019 01; 126:112-123. . View in PubMed
  • Use of high resolution computed tomography to diagnose ante-mortem dental root fractures in archaeological samples Int J Paleopathol. 2018 09; 22:143-148. . View in PubMed
  • Of mice and men (and women): Comment on Peacock et al, 2018. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2018 09; 167(1):185-189. . View in PubMed
  • Cranial vault thickness variation and inner structural organization in the StW 578 hominin cranium from Jacovec Cavern, South Africa J Hum Evol. 2018 08; 121:204-220. . View in PubMed
  • Human-like hip joint loading in Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus J Hum Evol. 2018 08; 121:12-24. . View in PubMed
  • Inter-ray variation in metatarsal strength properties in humans and African apes: Implications for inferring bipedal biomechanics in the Olduvai Hominid 8 foot J Hum Evol. 2018 08; 121:147-165. . View in PubMed
  • Subchondral Bone Radiodensity Patterns in the Glenoid Fossa of Ape and Human Scapulae Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2018 05; 301(5):776-785. . View in PubMed
  • Morphology and structure of Homo erectus humeri from Zhoukoudian, Locality 1 PeerJ. 2018; 6:e4279. . View in PubMed
  • Comparative analysis of trabecular bone structure and orientation in South African hominin tali J Hum Evol. 2017 05; 106:1-18. . View in PubMed
  • Adaptation to suspensory locomotion in Australopithecus sediba J Hum Evol. 2017 03; 104:1-12. . View in PubMed
  • The Biomechanics of Bony Facial “Buttresses” in South African Australopiths: An Experimental Study Using Finite Element Analysis Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2017 01; 300(1):171-195. . View in PubMed
  • Mechanical evidence that Australopithecus sediba was limited in its ability to eat hard foods Nat Commun. 2016 Feb 08; 7:10596. . View in PubMed
  • Comparative biomechanics of Australopithecus sediba mandibles J Hum Evol. 2016 11; 100:73-86. . View in PubMed
  • Trabecular architecture in the StW 352 fossil hominin calcaneus J Hum Evol. 2016 08; 97:145-58. . View in PubMed
  • Recent origin of low trabecular bone density in modern humans Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jan 13; 112(2):366-71. . View in PubMed
  • Cortical structure of hallucal metatarsals and locomotor adaptations in hominoids PLoS One. 2015; 10(1):e0117905. . View in PubMed
  • New high-resolution computed tomography data of the Taung partial cranium and endocast and their bearing on metopism and hominin brain evolution Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Sep 09; 111(36):13022-7. . View in PubMed
  • Physical activity engendering loads from diverse directions augments the growing skeleton J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2013 Sep; 13(3):283-8. . View in PubMed
  • The upper limb of Australopithecus sediba Science. 2013 Apr 12; 340(6129):1233477. . View in PubMed
  • The lower limb and mechanics of walking in Australopithecus sediba Science. 2013 Apr 12; 340(6129):1232999. . View in PubMed
  • Mosaic morphology in the thorax of Australopithecus sediba Science. 2013 Apr 12; 340(6129):1234598. . View in PubMed
  • Joint loads in marsupial ankles reflect habitual bipedalism versus quadrupedalism PLoS One. 2013; 8(3):e58811. . View in PubMed
  • Synchrotron Reveals Early Triassic Odd Couple: Injured Amphibian and Aestivating Therapsid Share Burrow PLoS One. 2013; 8(6):e64978. . View in PubMed
  • The foot and ankle of Australopithecus sediba Science. 2011 Sep 09; 333(6048):1417-20. . View in PubMed
  • A partial pelvis of Australopithecus sediba Science. 2011 Sep 09; 333(6048):1407-11. . View in PubMed
  • The endocast of MH1, Australopithecus sediba Science. 2011 Sep 09; 333(6048):1402-7. . View in PubMed
  • Gait dynamics of Cebus apella during quadrupedalism on different substrates Am J Phys Anthropol. 2010 Jun; 142(2):273-86. . View in PubMed
  • Apparent density of the primate calcaneo-cuboid joint and its association with locomotor mode, foot posture, and the “midtarsal break” Am J Phys Anthropol. 2010 Jun; 142(2):180-93. . View in PubMed
  • Australopithecus sediba: a new species of Homo-like australopith from South Africa Science. 2010 Apr 09; 328(5975):195-204. . View in PubMed
  • Is bone’s response to mechanical signals dominated by gravitational loading? Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Nov; 41(11):2037-43.. View in PubMed
  • Locomotor variation and bending regimes of capuchin limb bones Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 Aug; 139(4):558-71. . View in PubMed
  • Role of Nonbehavioral Factors in Adjusting Long Bone Diaphyseal Structure in Free-ranging Pan troglodytes Int J Primatol. 2008 Dec; 29(6):1401-1420. . View in PubMed
  • Apparent density patterns in subchondral bone of the sloth and anteater forelimb Biol Lett. 2008 Oct 23; 4(5):486-9. . View in PubMed
  • Building a better organismal model: The role of the mouse–Introduction to the symposium Integr Comp Biol. 2008 Sep; 48(3):321-3. . View in PubMed
  • Do different locomotor modes during growth modulate trabecular architecture in the murine hind limb? Integr Comp Biol. 2008 Sep; 48(3):385-93.. View in PubMed
  • Increased non-linear locomotion alters diaphyseal bone shape J Exp Biol. 2007 Sep; 210(Pt 17):3117-25. . View in PubMed
  • Robusticity and sexual dimorphism in the postcranium of modern hunter-gatherers from Australia Am J Phys Anthropol. 2007 Sep; 134(1):9-23. . View in PubMed
  • Bone density spatial patterns in the distal radius reflect habitual hand postures adopted by quadrupedal primates J Hum Evol. 2007 Feb; 52(2):130-41. . View in PubMed
  • Muscle architecture of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): perspectives for investigating chimpanzee behavior Primates. 2006 Jul; 47(3):218-29. . View in PubMed
  • Habitual use of the primate forelimb is reflected in the material properties of subchondral bone in the distal radius J Anat. 2006 Jun; 208(6):659-70. . View in PubMed
  • Locomotor behavior and long bone morphology in individual free-ranging chimpanzees J Hum Evol. 2006 Apr; 50(4):394-404. . View in PubMed
  • Cutting corners: the dynamics of turning behaviors in two primate species J Exp Biol. 2006 Mar; 209(Pt 5):927-37. . View in PubMed
  • External forces on the limbs of jumping lemurs at takeoff and landing Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005 Oct; 128(2):348-58. . View in PubMed
  • Investigating the form-function interface in African apes: Relationships between principal moments of area and positional behaviors in femoral and humeral diaphyses Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005 Jul; 127(3):312-34. . View in PubMed
  • Gait mechanics of lemurid primates on terrestrial and arboreal substrates J Hum Evol. 2005 Feb; 48(2):199-217. . View in PubMed
  • Baboon taphonomy and its relevance to the investigation of large felid involvement in human forensic cases Forensic Sci Int. 2004 Aug 11; 144(1):37-44. . View in PubMed
  • Intrinsic qualities of primate bones as predictors of skeletal element representation in modern and fossil carnivore feeding assemblages J Hum Evol. 2003 Apr; 44(4):431-50. . View in PubMed