UCL Anthropology


Anna Westland

Photo Anna Westland

UCL Emailanna.westland.14@ucl.ac.uk
Websiteshttps://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anna_Westland; https://london-nerc-dtp.org/profile/westlanda/
Year of Start: 2017
Supervisors: Christophe Soligo; Aida Gómez-Robles
Subject: Biological Anthropology
Fieldsite: N/A

PhD Research

Intraspecific variation of cranial morphology in Hominoidea

The morphology of primate crania is influenced by a multitude of factors, interacting in a complex way on a complex structure. The current project aims to provide a comprehensive study of cranial morphology in extant Hominoidea (apes), with a focus on intraspecific variation of shape.

A large dataset of landmark data from hominoid crania will be collected from museum specimens using a MicroScribe digitiser, and this data will be analysed using geometric morphometric techniques.

Analyses will investigate levels of intra-taxon variation, and some of the factors which may be influencing the observed variation. Principally: cranial modularity; the differential evolutionary rates of these modules; and correlation of cranial morphology with ecogeographical and socioecological variables. The effects of allometric scaling on cranial variation, and the pattern and strength of phylogenetic signals in different regions of the cranium will also be investigated for this new dataset. The data produced in this study will contribute to an existing comprehensive dataset of primate cranial morphology, so that in the future patterns of cranial variation can be compared across Primates.

This in-depth investigation of hominoid cranial morphology will be an initial step in using extant species’ morphology to make accurate predictions about species boundaries in extinct species, as well as providing will provide much needed knowledge about the diversity of our closest living relatives.

Research interests

  • Palaeoanthropology
  • Comparative anatomy
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Intraspecific variation and species delimitation
  • Hominoid cranial evolution

Presentations & Conferences


  • Intraspecific and interspecific variation of hominoid cranial morphology – NHM Student Conference 2019 – Natural History Museum, London; Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2019 – University of York; NERC DTP Conference 2018: A Changing Planet – Imperial College London.
  • Cranial shape variation between and within ape species – Linnean Society Student Conference 2019, Linnean Society.
  • Potential causes of Neanderthal extinction – Student Poster Prize Winner – Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2017 – University of Liverpool.
  • Evaluating the use of chronologies in the study of hominin occupation in Palaeolithic Europe – Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2016 – University of Southampton; Palaeolithic-Mesolithic Conference 2016 – British Museum, London.


Evaluating the use of chronologies in the study of hominin interactions – Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2017, University of Liverpool.


Unravelling the Ecology and Environment - Unravelling the Palaeolithic 2017, University of Liverpool.

Teaching Experience

Teaching assistant for UCL Anthropology: Introduction to Biological Anthropology (Palaeoanthropology)

Education History

  • 2014 - 2015: MSc Human Evolution and Behaviour, University College London
  • 2010 - 2014: BSc Biological Sciences & Spanish, University of Birmingham

Honours, Awards & Funding

  • London NERC DTP (2017 - present)
  • Dame Mary Douglas Award (2014)

Additional Information

Excavation supervisor: Gorham’s Cave UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gibraltar (2018)