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Darryl De Ruiter

Darryl de Ruiter
Department Head
  • (979) 845-5242
  • Anthropology 234
Professional Links
PhD, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2001
Biological Anthropology


paleoanthropology, paleoecology, isotope ecology, zooarchaeology, taphonomy

Current Research Projects:

I am a paleoanthropologist whose research focuses on the ecology and evolution of the early hominins of Africa. My research originally centered on the robust australopiths of South Africa, though more recently I have been concentrating on the origin of the genus Homo, and on early representatives of that genus. In 2010, my research team and I announced the discovery of a new hominin species – Australopithecus sediba – from the site of Malapa in South Africa. Australopithecus sediba represents a curious mixture of both australopith-like and Homo-like morphologies, and based on this mosaic of characters, we hypothesized that it represents the australopith ancestor of the genus Homo. In 2015 my research team and I announced the discovery of another new hominin species – Homo naledi – from the site of Rising Star, also in South Africa. This species is especially fascinating in that it was likely contemporaneous with the earliest representatives of Homo sapiens, and, perhaps even more remarkable, that they appear to have deliberately disposed of their dead. I am also involved in a series of studies investigating the isotope ecology of modern South Africa in order to better contextualize the isotope ecology of the extinct hominins of South Africa. Our most recent project focused on the ranging and reproductive behaviors of the australopiths of South Africa as reflected in strontium isotope ratios detected in their teeth.

I originally arrived at Texas A&M University in 2003, after receiving my PhD in Anatomical Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In 2009, I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, and was appointed to a Ray A. Rothrock ’77 Fellowship for my efforts in research, teaching, and service leading up to tenure. In 2013, I was promoted to Full Professor, and in 2014 I was appointed to a Cornerstone Faculty Fellowship in Liberal Arts. In 2016, I was honored to receive a Distinguished Achievement Award in Research from the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M. I have been serving as the Department Head of Anthropology since July of 2019.

Courses Taught:

ANTH 201 – Introduction to Anthropology
ANTH 225 – Introduction to Biological Anthropology
ANTH 312 – Fossil Evidence for Human Evolution
ANTH 370 – Cultural Diversity and Ethics
ANTH 409 – Science, Pseudoscience and Critical Thinking
ANTH 489 – Anthropology of Beer
ANTH 601 – Biological Anthropology
ANTH 625 – Zooarchaeology
ANTH 643 – Australopithecine Paleoecology
ANTH 689 – Taphonomy

Current Graduate Students:

Kersten Bergstrom, Nompumelelo Hlophe

Selected and Recent Publications:

2019 de Ruiter, D.J., Laird, M.F., Elliot, M., Schmid, P., Brophy, J.K., Hawks, J., Berger, L.R. The skull of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber of the Rising Star cave, Gauteng, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 132: 1-14..

2019 Brophy, J.K., Irish, J., Churchill, S.E., de Ruiter, D.J., Hawks, J., Berger, L.R. A comparison of hominin teeth from Lincoln Cave, Sterkfontein L/63, and the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 115 (5/6): 1-3.

2018 de Ruiter, D.J., Carlson, K.B., Brophy, J.K., Churchill, S.E., Carlson, K.J., Berger, L.R. The skull of Australopithecus sediba. PaleoAnthropology 2018: 56-155.

2018 Elliot, M.C., Quam, R., Nalla, de Ruiter, D.J., D.J., Hawks, J., Berger, L.R. Description and analysis of three Homo naledi incudes from the Dinaledi Chamber, Rising Star cave (South Africa). Journal of Human Evolution 122: 146-155.

2018 Robinson, C., Campbell, T.L., Cote, S., de Ruiter, D.J., Incorporating stratigraphic data in hominin phylogenetic hypotheses: insights from Australopithecus sediba. South African Journal of Science 114: 92-98.

2017 de Ruiter, D.J., Churchill, S.E., Hawks, J., Berger, L.R. Late australopiths and the emergence of Homo. Annual Review of Anthropology 46: 99-115.

2017 Hawks, J., Elliot, M., Schmid, P., Churchill, S.E., de Ruiter, D.J., Roberts, E.M., Hilbert-Wolf, H., Garvin, H.M., Williams, S.A., Delezene, L.K., Feuerriegel, E.M., Randolph-Quinney, P., Kivell, T.L., Laird, M.F., Tawane, G., DeSilva, J.M., Bailey, S.E., Brophy, J.K., Meyer, M.R., Skinner, M.M., Tocheri, M.W., VanSickle, C., Walker, C.S., Campbell, T.C., Kuhn, B., Kruger, A., Tucker, S., Gurtov, A., Hlope, N., Hunter, R., Morris, H., Peixotto, B., Ramapela, M., van Rooyen, D., Tsikoane, M., Boshoff, P., Dirks, P.H.G.M., Berger, L.R. New fossil remains of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber, South Africa. eLIFE 2017; 6:e24232.

2015         Berger, L.R., Hawks, J, de Ruiter, D.J., Churchill, S.E., Schmid, P., Delezene, L.K., Kivell, T.L., Garvin, H.M., Williams, S.A., DeSilva, J.M., Skinner, M., Musiba, C.M., Cameron, N., Holliday, T.W., Harcourt-Smith, W., Ackermann, R.R., Bastir, M., Bogin, B., Bolter, D., Brophy, J.K., Cofran, Z.D., Congdon, K.A., Deane, A.S., Dembo, M., Drapeau, M., Elliott, M., Feuerriegel, E.M., Garcia-Martinez, D., Green, D.J., Gurtov, A., Irish, J.D., Kruger, A., Laird, M.F., Marchi, D., Meyer, M.R., Nalla, S., Negash, E.W., Orr, C., Radovčić, D., Schroeder, L., Scott, J.E., Throckmorton, Z., Tocheri, M., VanSickle, C., Walker, C.S., Wei, P. Zipfel, B.  Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. eLIFE 2015;4:e09560: 1-35.

2013         de Ruiter, D.J., DeWitt, T.J., Carlson, K.B., Brophy, J.K., Schroeder, L., Ackermann, R.R., Churchill, S.E., Berger, L.R. Mandibular remains support taxonomic validity of Australopithecus sedibaScience 340: 1232997-1 – 1232997-4.

2012         Henry, A.G., Ungar, P S., Passey, B.H., Sponheimer, M., Rossouw, L., Bamford, M., Sandberg, P., de Ruiter, D.J., Berger, L.R. Diet of Australopithecus sedibaNature 487: 90-93.

2010         de Ruiter, D.J., Brophy, J.K., Lewis, P.J., Kennedy, A.M., Stidham, T.A., Carlson, K.B., Hancox, P.J. Preliminary investigation of Matjhabeng, a Pliocene fossil locality in the Free State of South Africa. Palaeontologia Africana 45: 11-22.

2010         Berger, L.R., de Ruiter, D.J., Churchill, S.E., Schmid, P., Carlson, K.J., Dirks, P.H.G.M., Kibii, J.M. Australopithecus sediba: a new species of Homo-like australopithecine from South Africa. Science328: 195-204.

2009         de Ruiter, D.J., Pickering, R., Steininger, C.M., Kramers, J.D., Hancox, P.J., Churchill, S.E., Berger, L.R., Backwell, L. New Australopithecus robustus fossils and associated U-Pb dates from Cooper’s Cave (Gauteng, South Africa). Journal of Human Evolution 56: 497-513.

2008         de Ruiter, D.J., Sponheimer, M., Lee-Thorp, J.A. Indications of habitat association of Australopithecus robustus in the Bloubank Valley, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 55: 1015-1030.

2006         Sponheimer, M., Passey, B.H., de Ruiter, D.J., Guatelli-Steinberg, D., Cerling, T.E., Lee-Thorp, J.A. Isotopic evidence for dietary variability in the early hominin Paranthropus robustusScience 314: 980-982.