Catching Up with Alan Walker

How did you first become interested in your specialty?

I have been a paleontologist from the age of 11 after finding fossils near my home.

What is the most exciting or fascinating part of your job?

I undertake detective work to find out how extinct animals lived.

What is your favorite aspect of working at Penn State?

I can teach my own research field rather than teach medical students human anatomy.

Where do you see your field 10 years from now?

I hope that African museums will have the facilities we have here for x-ray imaging—if they did anyone could study fossils without going there.

When you're not working, how do you spend your free time?

Reading biographies, making jewelry, and going to our house on Little Cayman.

Recent Publications

Walker, A., Ryan, T.M., Silcox, M.T., Spoor, F., and Simons, E. (2008) The semicircular canal system and locomotion: the case of extinct lemuroids and lorisoids. Evolutionary Anthropology 17:135-145.

Silcox, M.T., Bloch, J.I., Boyer, D.M., Godinot, M., Ryan, T.M., Spoor, F., & Walker, A. (2008) Semicircular canal system in early primates and euprimates. J. Hum. Evol. 56: 315-327

Scott, J.R., Ungar, P.S., Jungers, W.L., Godfrey, L.R., Scott, R.S., Simons, E.L., Teaford, M.F., Walker, A. (2008) Dental microwear texture analysis of two families of subfossil lemurs from Madagascar. J. Hum. Evol. 56:405-416.

Ryan, T.M., Burney, D.A., Godfrey, L.R., Golich, U.B., Jungers, W.L., Vasey, N., Ramilisonina, Walker ,A., and Weber, G. (2008) A reconstruction of the Vienna skull of Hadropithecus stenognathus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105:10699-10702.

Walker, A. (2009) The strength of apes and the speed of humans. Current Anthropology 50:229-234.


man in yellow shirt looks  to his right

Alan Walker

Title: Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology

Primary research interests: He has carried our field and laboratory work on fossil and living primates. He studied the locomotion of living lemurs in order to understand the locomotion of the recently extinct giant lemurs of Madagascar, the microscopic wear on teeth to infer the dietary habits of extinct primates and humans.

He has recently collaborated with colleagues to understand the relationship between the size of semicircular canals and locomotion in order to discover the locomotor adaptations of extinct species without recourse to information from the limb skeleton.

Honors and awards include:

  • Fellow of the Royal Society
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences
  • Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships.
  • His book The Wisdom of Bones (with Pat Shipman) won the Rhône-Poulenc Prize in 1997.
  • You can contact Alan Walker here: E-mail:

    Last Updated November 10, 2009