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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Prof Robert A. Barton, BSc, M.Sc, PhD

Acting Executive Director in the Institute of Advanced Study

Contact Prof Robert A. Barton


Evolutionary biologist/anthropologist interested in brains, behaviour and cognition, using phylogenetoic comparative methods to study how these traits evolved. Developed and tested the 'Visual brain hypothesis' for primate brain size evolution. Currently interested in the underestimated role of the cerebellum in brain evolution and cognition. Also works on the evolutionary and cultural significance of the colour red.

Recent projects include: 'The Phylogeny of Sleep' (funded by NIH, $1m); 'Evolutionary architecture of reproduction in female mammals' (funded by BBSRC/NERC, £248k); 'Cognitive Evolution and the brain' (Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, £38k).


  • PhD in Primate Behavioural Ecology (1990)
  • Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology (2005-)
  • President, Primate Society of Great Britain (2001-2005)
  • President, European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (2010-2013)
  • Leverhulme Research Fellow (2012-13) - Cognitive evolution and the brain
  • Visting Research Fellow, All Souls Collge Oxford (2011) - Evolution of human cognition

Research Interests

  • Behavioural ecology and sociobiology
  • Comparative studies of brain size and structure in relation to behavioural ecology
  • Evolution of mamalian reproductive traits
  • Primate evolution and behaviour

Selected Publications

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Research Groups

Research Projects

International Collaboration

  • Charlie Nunn, Harvard University - phylogenetic comparative studies
  • Patrck McNamara, Boston University - evolution of sleep

Selected Grants

  • 2005: PHYLOGENY OF SLEEP (£128138.22 from National Institutes of Health)