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Christopher B. Ruff, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Christopher B. Ruff, Ph.D.
  • Professor of Functional Anatomy and Evolution

Research Interests

Osteoporosis skeletal remodeling & behavioral reconstruction in human populations; Postcranium skeletal growth and development; Evolution of the hominoid; Biomechanics and primate locomotion; Skeletal remodeling; Primate functional morphology and evolution; Anatomy; Climatic adaptation; Human populations; Behavioral reconstruction; Skeletal growth and development; Hominoid postcranium; Osteoporosis; Biological Anthropology; Evolution; Paleoanthropology; Skeletal biology more


Christopher B. Ruff, Ph.D., is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He serves as director of the Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution and also holds an appointment in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

A paleoanthropologist, Dr. Ruff studies and teaches students how variation in skeletal morphology is related to mechanical forces applied during life.

His work – which focuses largely on hominins – unites biomechanical skeletal-system modeling with comparative and evolutionary studies of primates. Knowledge gained through Dr. Ruff’s work is being applied clinically. For example, the skeletal-strength indices he developed help clinicians predict people’s risk of developing osteoporosis and suffering bone fractures.

Dr. Ruff earned his doctoral degree in biological anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. He then completed a research fellowship in orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Hospital. He also holds a bachelor’s degree (Phi Beta Kappa) in anthropology from Stanford University. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1983.

He has published more than 150 journal articles and delivered scores of invited lectures. Dr. Ruff is a Fellow (Anthropology) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and has served as an advisor for the AAAS, National Science Foundation, American Association of Physical Anthropologists and The Leakey Foundation.

A former editor of the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, he also has served on the editorial boards of publications that include the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Journal of Human Evolution and Journal of the Anthropological Society of Nippon. more


  • Professor of Functional Anatomy and Evolution

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania) (1981)
  • B.A., Stanford University (California) (1975)

Additional Training

Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 1983, Post-Doctoral Research, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Ruff’s research explores how variation in skeletal morphology is related to mechanical forces applied during life. Many experimental and comparative studies show that the skeleton adapts to its mechanical environment, both developmentally and through evolutionary time, by altering its structural organization. Thus, using engineering principles, the preserved morphology of skeletal elements can be used to reconstruct past behavior and other characteristics such as body size and proportions.

His work has applied this general approach to a variety of issues in vertebrate biology, focusing in particular on the primate postcranial skeleton: locomotor adaptations among anthropoid primates, the evolution of human bipedal locomotion, reconstruction of stature and body mass, bioarchaeological studies of various recent populations, climatic adaptation, and skeletal growth and aging in both humans and nonhuman primates.

His current research is focused on how changes in subsistence strategy and other environmental variables affected skeletal morphology in Holocene European populations; the interaction between locomotion, obstetrics, and body shape among early hominins; and the effects of locomotor transitions during growth on skeletal structure in gorillas and other hominoids.

Figures 1 and 2

Lab Website: Christopher B. Ruff Lab

Selected Publications

Ruff CB, Garofalo E, Holmes MA. "Interpreting skeletal growth in the past from a functional and physiological perspective." Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 2013. 150:29-37.

Ruff CB, Higgins R. "Femoral neck structure and function in early hominins." Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 2013. 150:512-525.

Ruff CB, Holt BM, Niskanen M, Sladek V, Berner M, Garofalo E, Garvin HM, Hora M, Maijanen H, Niinimaki S, Salo K, Schuplerova E, and Tompkins D. "Stature and body mass estimation from skeletal remains in the European Holocene.’ Am J Phys Anthropol. 2012. 148: 601-617.

Ruff CB. "Body size and body shape in early hominins: Implications of the Gona pelvis." J. Hum. Evol. 2010. 58: 166-178.

Ruff CB. "Relative limb strength and locomotion in Homo habilis." Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 138: 90-100: 10.1016/j.cct.2013.06.018. Epub 2013 Jun 29.

Contact for Research Inquiries

1830 E. Monument Street
Room 302
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-955-7126

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Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Functional Anatomy and Evolution

Activities & Honors


  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Anthropology Section, 2002
  • Paul T. Baker Distinguished Lecturer Award, Pennsylvania State University, 1999
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Medical Student Society, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1994 - 1995
  • William F. Milton Fund Fellow, Harvard University, 1982 - 1983
  • NIH Traineeship, Harvard University Medical School, 1982 - 1983
  • University Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1975 - 1978
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Stanford University, 1975


  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 1999
  • Association of Physical Anthropologists, 1977
  • Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, 2002

Professional Activities

  • Guest Researcher, NIA/NIH, Francis Scott Key Medical Center

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