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Professor Robert A. Barton


BSc, M.Sc, PhD

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Professor in the Department of Anthropology  
Member of the Durham Cultural Evolution Research Centre  
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study  


    • 2018: Osman Hill Memorial medal awarded by Primate Society of Great Britain:
    • Leverhulme Research Fellow (2012-13) - Cognitive evolution and the brain
    • Visting Research Fellow, All Souls Collge Oxford (2011) - Evolution of human cognition
    • President, European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association (2010-2013)
    • Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology (2005-)
    • President, Primate Society of Great Britain (2001-2005)
    • PhD in Primate Behavioural Ecology (1990)

    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).

    Research interests

    • Behavioural ecology and sociobiology
    • Evolution of mamalian reproductive traits
    • Primate evolution and behaviour
    • Brain evolution
    • Cognitive evolution

    Research groups

    Esteem Indicators

    Media Contacts

    Available for media contact about:

    • Human biology and development: animal behaviour
    • Human biology and development: evolutionary theory
    • Human biology and development: the brain
    • People: Evolution and Biology: animal behaviour
    • People: Evolution and Biology: evolutionary theory
    • People: Evolution and Biology: the brain


    Chapter in book

    • Nunn, C.L., McNamara, P., Capellini, I., Preston, B.T. & Barton, R.A. (2009). Primate sleep in phylogenetic perspective. In Evolution of sleep. McNamara, P., Barton, R.A. & Nunn, C.L. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Swann, J., Fabre-Nys, C. & Barton, R.A. (2009). Hormonal and pheromonal modulation of the extended amygdala: implications for social behaviour. In Hormones, Brain and Behavior. Pfaff, D.W., Arnold, A.P., Etgen, A.M., Fahrbach, S.E. & Rubin, R.T. New York: Academic Press. 1.
    • Capellini, I., McNamara, P., Preston, B., Barton, R.A. & Nunn, C.L. (2009). Ecological constraints on mammalian sleep architecture. In Evolution of sleep. McNamara, P., Barton, R.A. & Nunn, C.L. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 12-34.
    • McNamara, P., Barton, R.A. & Nunn, C.L. (2009). Introduction. In Evolution of sleep. McNamara, P., Barton, R.A. & Nunn, C.L. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Barton, R.A. (2008). Brain Modules: Mosaic Evolution. In Encyclopedia of Neuroscience. Squire, L. Oxford: Academic Press. 2: 389-394.
    • Barton, R.A. (2007). Evolution of the social brain as a distributed neural system. In Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Dunbar, R.I.M. & Barrett, L.E. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 129-144.
    • McNamara, P., Nunn, C., Barton, R.A., Harris, E. & Capellini, I. (2007). Phylogeny of sleep and dreams. In The New Science of Dreaming. Barrett, D. & McNamara, P. Wesport, Connecticut.: Praeger. I: 53-70.
    • Barton, R.A. (2006). Mosaic evolution of brain structure in mammals. In Evolution of nervous systems. U.K.: Elsevier.
    • Deaner, R., Barton, R.A. & van Schaik, C.P. (2002). Primate brains and life histories. In The evolution of primate life histories. Kappeler, P. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 233-265.
    • Barton, R.A. (2000). Ecological and social factors in primate brain evolution. In On the move: how and why animals travel in groups. Boinski, S. & Garber, P. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
    • Barton, R.A. & Aggleton, J. (2000). Primate evolution and the amygdala. In The amygdala: a functional analysis. Aggleton, J. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 480-508.
    • Barton, R.A. (2000). Socioecology of baboons: the interaction of male and female strategies. In Primate males. Kappeler, P. Cambridge: ambridge University Press. 167-203.
    • Barton, R.A. (1999). The evolutionary ecology of the primate brain. In Comparative Primate Socioecology. Lee, P. Cambridge University Press. 167-203.

    Edited book

    • McNamara, P., Barton, R.A. & Nunn, C.L. (2009). Evolution of Sleep: Phylogenetic and Functional Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Journal Article

    Supervision students