Research Lines

CRANIOSYNOSTOSIS AND SKULL EVOLUTIONevo_csThis project explores whether our evolutionary history predisposes us to craniosynostosis and what evolution can teach us about this disease. Craniosynostosis is a birth condition where one or more of the sutures that separate the cranial bones close prematurely, which may cause head malformations and brain damage. Though a disease in humans, craniosynostosis shares many features with the normal evolution of the head. My goal is to understand how similar is suture closure in evolution and in craniosynostosis. This research has the potential to translate into novel, complementary tools to diagnose and treat craniosynostosis, while giving us a new perspective on the evolution of our own body.

  • Esteve-Altava B, Vallès Català T, Guimerà R, Sales-Pardo M, Rasskin-Gutman D. 2017. Bone fusion in normal and pathological development is constrained by the network architecture of the human skull. Scientific Reports 7: 3376.
  • Esteve-Altava B, Rasskin-Gutman D. 2015. EvoDevo insights from pathological networks: Exploring craniosynostosis as a developmental mechanism for modularity and complexity in the human skull. Journal of Anthropological Sciences 93: 1–15.


g5852We are always working toward a better implementation of Network Theory to study the evolution and development of anatomy and morphology: improving the morphological interpretation of concepts from network sciences and testing new methods of analysis.

  • Esteve-Altava B. 2017. Challenges in identifying and interpreting organizational modules in morphology. Journal of Morphology 278 (7): 960–974.
  • Rasskin-Gutman D, Esteve-Altava B. 2014. Connecting the dots: anatomical network analysis in morphological EvoDevo. Biological Theory 9: 178–193.


ImprimirThrough our collaboration in a NSF-funded project (PI: Rui Diogo, Brian Villmoare), we explore the morphological evolution and normal development of the skeletal and muscular systems in humans and other primates.

  • Diogo R, Molnar JL, Rolian C, Esteve-Altava B. 2018. First anatomical network analysis of fore- and hindlimb musculoskeletal modularity in bonobos, common chimpanzees, and humans. Scientific Reports 8: 6885.
  • Esteve-Altava B, Boughner JC, Diogo R, Villmoare BA, Rasskin-Gutman D. 2015. Anatomical network analysis shows decoupling of modular lability and complexity in the evolution of the primate skull. PLoS ONE 10 (5): e0127653.


modularity_skullWe are also interested in the study of macroevolutionary patterns in morphology; in particular, in explaining and quantifying directional patterns of evolution and the evolution of modularity.

  • Esteve-Altava B. 2017. In search of morphological modules: a systematic review. Biological Reviews 92 (3): 1332–1347.
  • Esteve-Altava B. 2017. Challenges in identifying and interpreting organizational modules in morphology. Journal of Morphology 278 (7): 960–974.
  • Rasskin-Gutman D, Esteve-Altava B. 2008. The multiple directions of evolutionary change. BioEssays 30: 521–525.




We also collaborate with Arcadi Navarro‘s group in a project to identify and understand the evolutionary processes and genomic factors (mutations, genes, duplications and pathways) affecting senescence and its related phenotypes (brain mass and age-related disease in humansacross vertebrates; articulating an integrated theory of senescence at the genetic and phenotypic levels.

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