Richard McElreath

McElreath in the field

Position Title

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Center for Population Biology


Research Interests

I am an evolutionary ecologist who studies humans. My main interest is in how the evolution of fancy social learning in humans accounts for the unusual nature of human adaptation and extraordinary scale and variety of human societies. Humans are more widespread and successful than any other vertebrate. Simultaneously, humans are unlike any other animal in that we cooperate in very large groups of unrelated individuals. I and my colleagues use formal evolutionary models, experiments and ethnographic fieldwork to address these puzzles. I also have strong interests in general evolutionary ecology, especially the evolution of social behavior.

My primary appointment is at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where I direct the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture. But I still serve occasionally on UC Davis committees and maintain collaborations with UC Davis colleagues. I am not accepting PhD students through any UC Davis program, but instead through the PhD program in Leipzig:

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Animal Behavior
  • Population Biology

Specialties / Focus

  • Behavior, Physiology and Morphology
  • Evolutionary Ecology and Life History Strategies
  • Systematics and Comparative Biology

Field Sites

  • Tanzania


  • 2001 PhD Anthropology University of California, Los Angeles


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