I am interested in the genetic and developmental basis of mammalian skeletal variation and evolution. My laboratory's current research focus is on the primate dentition using the baboon (Papio hamadryas) as our animal model.
Quantitative genetic analyses of dental variation on the pedigreed breeding colony of baboons housed at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in Texas enable us to model statistically how genetic, non-genetic, and covariate effects contribute to the overall population variation in traits such as tooth size, enamel thickness, and extra cusps on teeth. QTL analyses are then used to identify chromosomal regions that may contain genes that determine some of this variation.
These genetic data are integrated with the fossil record to study morphological (phenotypic) evolution from a genotypic perspective. The rich African fossil record documenting the last 10 million years of Old World monkey evolution reveals when--and in what order--dental morphological changes occurred. Our research on the modern baboons provides insight into the genetics that underpin the anatomical variation, allowing us to reconstruct the genetic evolutionary history of the primate dentition through interpretation of the fossil record.
This laboratory research is complemented by active field paleontology research projects in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Hlusko, L.J., M.L. Maas, and M.C. Mahaney. Statistical genetics of molar cusp patterning in pedigreed baboons: Implications for primate dental development and evolution. Molecular and Developmental Evolution (J. Exp. Zool.), in press.
Hlusko, L.J., G. Suwa, R. Kono, and M.C. Mahaney. 2004. Genetics and the evolution of primate enamel thickness: A baboon model. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 124:223-233.
Hlusko, L.J. 2004. Perspective: Integrating the genotype and phenotype in hominid paleontology. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101(9):2653-2657.
Hlusko, L.J. and M.C. Mahaney. 2003. Genetic contributions to expression of the baboon cingular remnant. Arch. Oral Biol. 48:663-672.
Ambrose, S.H., L.J. Hlusko, D. Kyule, A. Deino, and M. Williams. 2003. Lemudong'o: A new 6ma paleontological site near Narok, Kenya Rift Valley. J. Hum. Evol. 44:737-742.
Hlusko, L.J. 2002. Identifying metameric variation in extant hominoid and fossil hominid molars. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 118(1):86-97.