K. Christopher Beard

Kenneth Christopher Beard ( born January 24, 1962) is an American paleontologist. He is curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and is particularly concerned with the evolutionary origins of primates ( monkeys).

Beard in 1989 received his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Division of Functional Anatomy and Evolution. His doctoral thesis was entitled postcranial Anatomy, Locomotor Adaptations, and Paleoecology of Early Cenozoic Plasiadapidae, Paromomyidae, and Micromomyidae ( Eutheria, Dermoptera ). In addition to his position at the Carnegie Museum he is professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Pittsburgh ( Mary R. Dawson Chair ).

In his book The hunt for the dawn monkey he believes that the origins of primates are much earlier than previously assumed and to settle in Asia rather than in Africa. He included fossils, especially from China and Mongolia.

He was one of the discoverers of the earliest North American finds of Teilhardina and Eosimias, one of the earliest ever found higher primates ( anthropoids ). With Chinese and U.S. scientists he found in China 45 million years old foot bones (ankle) of Eosimias, until then only jaws and teeth were known by the. They allowed the classification as transitional forms from prosimians to higher primates, as the ankle showed that they already like higher monkeys preferred a four-legged locomotion on trees. They also supported the hypothesis of an origin of higher primates of the tarsiers instead of the lemur -like Adapidae.

In 2009 he described Ganlea megacanina as possible ancestors of the anthropoids after a find from Burma, which further substantiated the hypothesis of the origin of higher apes in Asia. After Beard 38 million year old finds also had a membership to the extinct Amphipitecidae and not with Adapiformes as described earlier in 2009, but in 1983 found Ida ( Darwinia ) from the Messel Pit. The high degree of specialization on hard-shelled fruits (similar to Sakis in the Amazon Basin ) is by Beard an indication of the close relationship of Amphipitecidae to the anthropoids.

With Jean -Jacques Jaeger and others, he was also in Libya finds from the earliest known Eocene branches of anthropoid apes in Africa. Since the findings from three different families are missing and older finds in time surrounded by the sea Africa sees Beard this with his colleagues as evidence of origin of the precursors of higher primates from Asia.

Beard also deals with the evolution of mammals in North America at the turn of Paleocene to Eocene.

2000 he was a MacArthur Fellow.


  • The hunt for the dawn monkey. Unearthing the origins of monkeys, apes and humans, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2004 ( The book was awarded the WW Howells Book Award of the American Anthropological Association and the 2005 Science Book Award of the Phi Beta Kappa Society)
  • Shawn M. Lehman, John G. Fleagle (eds.) Primate Biogeography: Progress and Prospects, Springer 2006
  • Basal Anthropoids, Walter Carl Hartwig in (ed.) The primate fossil record, Cambridge University Press 2002
  • Early Wasatchian mammals from the gulf coastal plain of Mississippi, Gregg F. Gunnell in (ed.) Eocene biodiversity: unusual occurences and rarely sampled habitats, Springer 2001
  • With Mary R. Dawson ( ed.) Dawn of the age of mammals in Asia, Carnegie Museum of Natural History 1998