Hoogland Site Panorama

iMAP Laboratory

The iMAP laboratory is the research group I run within the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Monash University. The lab brings together my field- and lab-based research experience with the infrastructure of the Department and University that spans advanced visualisation, medical imaging, 3D data capture and 3D printing.

On this page you will find links/short descriptions of some of the fieldwork and laboratory research I have conducted over the past 10 years towards expanding the South African Plio-Pleistocene fossil record, addressing research hypotheses on the palaeobiology and palaeoecology of African Neogene and Quaternary mammals, as well as the geologic and taphonomic factors influencing the composition of fossil assemblages in the cave systems of the UNESCO Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

Fieldwork Projects

Haasgat Site


Learn More! »

Drimolen Site


Learn More! »

Hoogland Site


Learn More! »

Luleche Site


Learn More! »

Gondolin Site


Learn More! »

Topographic Map
Topographic Map: Showing the major South African late Pliocene and early Pleistocene palaeontological sites across the Malmani Dolomites (map courtesy of Dr. Jason Hemingway).

Laboratory Projects

Palaeobiology of South African Plio-Pleistocene Mammals

The primary focus at iMAP is researching the palaeobiology of non-hominin South African Pliocene and Pleistocene mammals. This is a purposefully general focus for the lab because my research (and that of my collaborators and students) covers a range of different activities.

One of the major activities at iMAP that intersects with fieldwork is the primary sorting and identification of newly recovered fossil specimens. The excavations we conduct in South African cave deposits generates thousands of individual fossil specimens every season. Even though many (or most) of these specimens may be fragmentary, all recovered remains need to be examined, catalogued, and databased to define the subset that can provide taphonomic, palaeoecologic, and/or palaeobiologic data. With the generous support of the Plio-Pleistocene Section of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History and the South African Heritage Resources Administration we are able to do much of this primary sorting and analysis year-round at Monash University, expediting the time between fossil excavation and publication.

Initial faunal identification and analysis requires reference samples and extensive data sets. Thanks to the support of the CHAE and Monash University, iMAP has one of the largest (and continuously growing) collections of modern African mammal skeletal materials, and collection of fossil casts, digital scans, measurement databases, and 3D prints in Australia. We are increasingly making these digital datasets available outside of iMAP through our partnerships with the Ditsong National Museum (see our DNMNH Archive page)

Fossil identification to develop primary data on our active fieldwork localities is just the initial step; at iMAP we are moving beyond faunal lists to address a paucity of recent research on South African Plio-Pleistocene non-hominin and non-primate mammals. With some notable exceptions, comprehensive palaeobiological analysis and integration many of the major taxonomic groups (from antelopes and suids to hyraxes, equids, elephants, rabbits and porcupines) were last undertaken in the 1970s. Decades of active excavation across South African fossil localities, and advances in morphological analysis methods that have become standard when addressing hominins and other primates, have not been applied to most of these mammal groups.

Currently, our lab is addressing several taxonomic groups and site-specific samples to bring South African faunal description, integration and analysis back to the forefront (see list of projects in process below and look for future updates!)

Ongoing Projects and Publications in Preparation

Establishing the orientation and biobehavioural implications of the semicircular canals of Cercopithecoides haasgati (Angela Olah and Matt McCurry)

The palaeobiology of the early Pleistocene baboon Papio angusticeps and hominin site palaeoecology (Georgia Zadow, PhD Candidate)

Kegley ADT, Hemingway J, and Adams JW. In review. Reassessment of Cercopithecoides haasgati and the evidence for multiple fossil colobine species at Haasgat, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. Submitted 07/2014, Journal of Human Evolution.

Adams JW. A critical review and analysis of the South African fossil record of Oreotragus (Smith, 1834)(Artiodactyla: Mammalia).

Adams JW. Postcranial remains of Metridiochoerus andrewsi (Family Suidae, Order Artiodactyla) from the Gondolin GD 2 assemblage, South Africa.

Adams JW. Variation in Plio-Pleistocene South African Redunca (Order Artiodactyla, Family Bovidae) and the origin of the mountain reedbuck, Redunca fulvorufula.

spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) partial cranium from the Kromdraai A deposits
Spotted hyaena: Oblique view of full colour surface scan of a spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) partial cranium from the Kromdraai A deposits (KA 58) in South Africa.
Right, the type specimen of the extinct caprine ‘Bos’ makapani (TM 315) from the Buffalo Cave site, Makapansgat Valley
‘Bos’ makapani: Oblique view of full colour surface scan of the type specimen of the extinct caprine ‘Bos’ makapani (TM 315) from the Buffalo Cave site, Makapansgat Valley, in South Africa.

Modern African Mammal Anatomy, Ontogeny and Biochronological Models

Advances in medical imaging technology and statistical analysis of morphology have opened new methods for addressing mammal evolutionary, developmental and functional anatomy. In my comparative anatomical research I combine diverse methods ranging from dissection to morphometrics and computerized tomography (CT) to study features of mammalian anatomy.

Past and current projects have investigated the development and morphology of large African mammal skulls (e.g. giraffe, rhinoceros, and elephant) and ‘intradental’ applications of CT to investigate morphological changes with progressive dental wear of modern and fossil African pigs (an essential group for establishing the relative ages of fossil deposits).

Published articles

Badlangana NL, Adams JW, and Manger PR. 2011. A comparative assessment of the size of the frontal sinus in the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis). Anatomical Record 294: 931-940. Article Here

Badlangana NL, Adams JW, and Manger PR. 2009. The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) cervical vertebral column: a heuristic example in understanding evolutionary processes? Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society 155: 736-757. Article Here

Adams JW. 2005. A methodology for the intraspecific assessment of heterogeneously worn hypsodont teeth using computerized tomography. Journal of Taphonomy 3(4): 151-162. Article Here

Biochronological Models Comparisons of the frontal sinuses and virtual endocasts of a modern giraffe juvenile and adult and an adult okapi (left); progressive changes to tooth morphology with wear in modern warthogs using computerized tomography (right)
Comparisons of the frontal sinuses and virtual endocasts of a modern giraffe juvenile and adult and an adult okapi (left); progressive changes to tooth morphology with wear in modern warthogs using computerized tomography (right)

3D Printing Technology in Anatomy Education

The Centre for Human Anatomy Education at Monash University is at the forefront of applying additive manufacturing technology in the anatomical sciences (McMenamin et al., 2014; Adams et al., in review). In tandem with our development of 3D printed anatomy teaching materials with Erler-Zimmer GmbH & Co. (www.3Danatomyseries.com), iMAP takes full advantage of the 3D printing infrastructure in the Centre to develop uniquely printed specimens of modern and fossil anatomy.

This includes producing customized views of living mammal anatomy, imaging complex internal anatomical structures, producing accurate reproductions of mammal soft-tissue and skeletal elements, and generating hypothetical reconstruction of partial fossil specimens.

Recently Published and In Review Articles

Adams JW, Paxton L, Dawes K, Burlak K, Quayle M, and McMenamin P. In review. 3D printed reproductions of orbital dissections: a novel mode of visualizing anatomy for trainees in ophthalmology or optometry. Submitted 09/2014, British Journal of Ophthalmology.

McMenamin PG, Quayle MR, McHenry CR and Adams JW. 2014. The production of anatomical teaching resources using three-dimensional (3D) printing technology. Anatomical Sciences Education 7: 479-486. Article Here

3D printing Awesomeness!
Examples of 3D printed specimens developed through the Centre for Human Anatomy Education. Left, western black and white colobus monkey (Colobus polykomos) microCT dataset that has been digitally sectioned through the midsagittal plane. Right, right vestibulocochlear organ segmented from the same skull (top, original surface; bottom, 5x 3D print of the surface.)