The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Jason Kamilar

Associate Professor

I am interested in primate behavior, ecology and evolution from the molecular to macro scales. 

One of my major lines of research is the evolutionary ecology of primate hair. Hair is one of the most important characteristics in the evolution of animals and is a defining characteristic of mammals. Importantly, hair is also a fundamental aspect of human uniqueness. Although there have been several hypotheses proposed to explain this unique human condition, none have been well tested. Another area of research is focused on the ecology and evolution of primate behavior. My previous work has investigated broad patterns of behavioral diversity. I am starting a new area of research examining the behavior of baboons in Zambia. Some of this work will connect their genetics and gut microbiomes to their behavioral phenotypes.

Current Research

My research examining hair morphology evolution is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. Though, I am taking this research in a new direction by examining hair and skin microbiomes. I was recently awarded a Leakey Foundation grant to fund the first stage of this project, investigating: How do the microbiota of humans and nonhuman primates differ, and what factors shape these differences? How do microbiomes vary across body region? Does phenotype and structure (e.g., melanin content) influence microbiome diversity? Our initial study will focus on hair samples from primates housed in zoos. This work will help us understand the human uniqueness and will have important implications for human and nonhuman primate health and disease. In addition, I am starting a new project that will examine the relationship between baboon behavior, genetics and gut microbiome diversity at Kasanka National Park, Zambia.

Learn more at

Academic Background

  • Postdoctoral, Washington University at St. Louis
  • Postdoctoral, Yale University
  • Ph.D, Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook
  • B.S, Life Sciences, Arizona State University
  • B.S, Anthropology, Arizona State University
Tapanes E, Anestis S, Kamilar JM, Bradley BJ. 2020. Does facial hair greying in chimpanzees provide a salient progressive cue of ageing? PLoS ONE 15: e0235610.
Petersdorf M, Weyher A, Kamilar JM, Dubuc C, Higham JP. 2019. Sexual selection in the Kinda baboon (Papio kindae). Journal of Human Evolution 135: 102635.
Best A and Kamilar JM. 2018. The evolution of sweat glands in human and nonhuman primates. Journal of Human Evolution 117: 33-43.
Anestis SF, Webster TH, Kamilar JM, Fontenot B, Watts DP, Bradley BJ. 2014. AVPR1A variation in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): Population differences and association with behavioral style. International Journal of Primatology 35: 305-324.
Pointer MA, Kamilar JM, Warmuth V, Chester SGB, Delsuc F, Mundy NI, Asher RJ, Bradley BJ. 2012. RUNX2 tandem repeats and the evolution of facial length in placental mammals. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12: 103. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-12-103.1-2148-12-103.
Contact Info

Department of Anthropology
102 Machmer Hall
240 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(631) 455-2518