Dr. Michael Gurven


TIMe: T R 2:00-3:15Pm                     Location: 1173 HSSB

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Office: 2059 HSSB; Phone: 893-2202

Office hours: T R 3:15-4:15pm, or by appointment


Class website:


TA: Emily Miner; Office: 1016 HSSB; Email:

TA office hours: Tues. 11:45am-1:45pm


course Description:

Have you ever wondered why children have such large heads but relatively small bodies? Why do humans grow differently than other primates and other animals? Are Pygmies "small but healthy"? Why is there now an obesity epidemic? How does development early in life relate to decline late in life? This upper-division course will analyze human growth and development from an evolutionary and cross-cultural perspective. Prenatal, infant, childhood, juvenile and adolescent periods and behavior will be compared and contrasted with developmental life history stages of other primates, particularly those of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. A special emphasis will be given to differences across human cultures and to the ontogeny and evolution of the human brain. We will also focus on senescent decline in late adulthood, and the relationship between early fetal environment and late-life health outcomes. Other related topics include sexual dimorphism, fluctuating asymmetry, immune function, chronic disease, subcutaneous fat, play activities and parental care. Students will also learn basic tools for measuring and modeling growth.


REQuired Course materials:

1. Textbook: Barry Bogin (1999) Patterns of Human Growth. Cambridge Univ. Press.

2. Assigned articles for particular weeks are available online through class website. Readings followed by "grad" are required for graduate students only, and recommended for undergraduates.†† Click here to download readings, lectures, datasets for homeworks.

3. Click here to access important links

4. You will need to download and install WHO Anthro and Curve Expert Basic on your computers.



  1. Min mid-term exam (20%)
  2. Homework assignments (40%)
  3. Final Exam (35%)
  4. Attendance/Class Participation (5%)


Course prerequisites:

1)      Students should have taken ANTH 5 or 7, or an equivalent course.

2)      Students should have taken at least one statistics course, ANTH 123MG, or equivalent course.

3)      Students must not be afraid of numbers, equations nor graphical representation of information. You will be using math (mostly algebra) in this course. You will need to manipulate quantitative data in a spreadsheet. Competency in algebra and simple statistics are required, and in calculus a plus!

4)      No slackers please. If you do not intend to come to class prepared and motivated, do all the readings and the work, then drop now.


Class policies (READ VERY CAREFULLY):

1)      The readings and lectures complement one another, but do not duplicate each other. You must attend the lectures and do the readings to do well in the class.

2)      Attendance is essential to gain a full understanding of the course content. Your education is your responsibility. In order to get the most out of this class: attend lectures, do the reading, and thoughtfully complete the exams and exercises.

3)      If you ever have questions I encourage you to visit me or the TA during office hours, or we can set up an appointment. Iím always eager to help students in need but you must take the initiative to meet with me. Also, I generally do not answer questions by email.

4)      Arriving on time to class is also critical. Students should arrive on time to class. Arriving late or leaving early are disruptions to other students and to the professor. Two latenesses count as an absence from class. One unexcused absence is allowed. If you are going to be absent, you are responsible for finding out what you missed from other classmates. Saying you were not in class and therefore didnít know about an assignment or exam will not be accepted as an excuse. You should find a buddy in class to fill you in on any assignments or material you may missed during an absence. Do not email me asking me to teach you what you missed. The TA or I will only help you after you've studied the material. No make-ups are allowed if notification occurs AFTER the exam or assignment was turned in. Without notification of the TA, all absences are counted as unexcused. Every two unexcused absences may result in a grade reduction (A to A-, B+ to B, etc.). The TA will be tracking class attendance.

5)      You are encouraged to be self-reliant and to take good notes. This will help you study for the exam.

6)      Plagiarism of any kind in any class assignment will not be tolerated. This includes copying from websites. Remember that Wikipedia is not a valid source. As stated in University policy, "Any act of academic dishonesty such as cheating or plagiarism, will subject a person to University disciplinary action." Click here for full statement about proper academic conduct.

7)      Make sure to turn your cellphones off during class. You may use your laptops for taking notes but no Facebook, Google chat, or other networking software is permitted.

8)      The class schedule is flexible and WILL change. Do not panic. Be aware that the dates given below are only tentative. Readings and homework assignments for the next couple of classes will always be repeated at the beginning of class.




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 Links to: Readings and Lectures


Week 1 (4/3, 4/5).

Introduction: Selection, life history, evolutionary trees, reaction norms, optimality models, Tinbergen's "How" and "Why?" questions.

Read: Bogin's Introduction, Chapter 1 (skim) and Chapter 2.


Week 2 (4/10, 4/12).

How do animals grow? Growth curves (distance, velocity, relative statistics)

**4/12 - MOVIE in class: Can We Live Forever? + TED talk by Geoffrey West

Read: 1) Bogin Chapter 3;

2) Charnov and Berrigan (1993) "Why do female primates have such long lifespans..." Evolutionary Anthropology 1:191-194.

3) Jolicoeur, P. et al. 1988. A lifetime asymptotic growth curve for human height. Biometrics 44:995-1003. (grad)

Homework 1 assigned (4/12).


Week 3 (4/17, 4/19).

Anthropometry, growth standards and using WHO Anthro, charts; computer exercises with MS Excel, Curve Expert Basic; Variation in modern human growth.

Read: 1) FANTA Readings

2) Browse help file in Curve Expert Basic 1.4

3) Bogin Chapters 5 and 6.

Homework 1 due (4/19).



Week 4 (4/24, 4/26).



1) Moses and Brown. 2003. Allometry of human fertility and energy use. Ecology Letters 6:295-300.

2) Charnov and Ernest (2006) Offspring size/clutch size trade-off in mammals. American Naturalist 167(4): 578-582. (grad)

3) West et al. (2001) "General model for ontogenetic growth" Nature 413:628-631 (grad).

Homework 2 assigned (4/24)


Week 5 (5/1, 5/3).

Human growth stages. Human vs. chimpanzee development.

Read: 1) Bogin Chapter 4.

2) Leigh (2001) "Evolution of human growth" Ev Anth 10:223-236.

3) Walker, R. et al. 2006. Growth rates, developmental markers and life histories in 21 small-scale societies. 2006. American Journal of Human Biology 18:295-311.

Homework 2 due (5/1)


MINI TAKE-HOME EXAM (Handed out 5/3, Due 5/8)


Week 6 (5/8, 5/10).

Brain size and evolution. Plus, why obesity?

Read: 1) Leigh (2004) "Brain growth, life history, and cognition..." Am J Prim 62:139-164.

2) Kuzawa (1998) "Adipose tissue in human infancy..." Yrbk Phys Anth 41:177-209 (grad).

3) McDade (2005) "The ecologies of human immune function" in Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 495-521.

Week 7 (5/15, 5/17).

Developmental origins of health and disease

Read: 1) Gluckman, P.D. (2007) Early life events and their consequences for later disease: a life history and evolutionary perspective. American Journal of Human Biology 19:1-19.

2) Barker, D., Gluckman, P., et al. 1993. Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life. Lancet 341:938-941.

Homework 3 assigned (5/15)

Week 8 (5/22, 5/24). In-class movie on 5/22: Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America's Greatest Threat

Fluctuating asymmetry. Sexual dimorphism. Plus, how big were ancient humans?

Read: 1) Ruff (1997) "Body mass and encephalization..." Nature 387:173-176.

2) Ruff (2002) Variation in human body size and shape. Annual Review of Anthropology 31:211-232.

Homework #3 due (5/22)


Week 9 (5/29, 5/31).

What about the Pygmies? Physical decline and aging

Read: 1) Weindruch, R. 2007. Calorie restriction and aging. Scientific American Special Edition 16(4):54-62.

2) Gavrilov and Gavrilova. 2004. Why we fall apart. IEEE Spectrum.

3) Costa 2002 Changing chronic disease rates and long-term declines in functional limitation among older men. Demography 39:119-137.

Homework #4 assigned (5/29)


Week 10 (6/5, 6/7).

Finishing up on previous lecture (Physical decline and aging)

Homework #4 due (6/5)



Final exam (Tuesday, 6/12 4-7pm).