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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Department ofVertebrate Zoology

Division of Mammals

Tarsius bancanus
bar Habiba Chirchir
    Habiba Chirchir
    Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Phone: (202)633-1922
  • Fax: (202)633-0182
  • E-mail: chirchirh[at]

  • Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Human Origins Program
    PO Box 37012, MRC 112
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    Human Origins Program, MRC 112
    National Museum of Natural History
    1000 Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20004


Ph.D. (Human Paleobiology): George Washington University, 2013
M.A. (Biological Anthropology): New York University, 2008
B.A. (Anthropology): University of Nairobi, 2005

Research Interests

My primary research goal is to understand the evolution of human skeletal anatomy and why it is unique in comparison to our closest living relatives, the great apes, in anatomy related to bipedal gait such as large lower limb joint surfaces, long lower limbs, and novel bipedal energetics that allows us to walk and run for long distances. While some of the questions surrounding the evolution of human skeletal anatomy have been explored, my work at the Smithsonian is to investigate trabecular bone (the bone network inside joints that helps absorb stresses) pattern observed in modern humans if indeed it is an adaptation to long-distance running as opposed to short-distance sprinting. Since humans are endurance runners and are capable of walking for long distances my approach is to compare the limb joints of mammals adapted to long-distance running (e.g., African wild dog, gray wolf) versus sprinting (e.g., cheetah, leopard). This comparison tests whether long-distance running is associated with lower trabecular bone density than in sprinters as a means of lowering the energy demanded by distance travel. Overall a lighter skeleton expends less energy to move and is less metabolically expensive to grow and maintain. If indeed mammals adapted to distance travel have reduced trabecular bone density, then the fossil record can be examined in greater detail using trabecular bone density to establish precisely when long distance running adaptations evolved in humans. I am also interested in investigating bone densities in animals engaging in different activities to identify if there are distinctive patterns e.g. among climbers, swimmers, and runners. I work with Rick Potts (Human Origins Program), Kris Helgen (Vertebrate Zoology), and Brian Richmond (George Washington University, Human Origins Program).

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