Emma Handler

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Emma K. Handler, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Center for Anatomical Sciences
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
University of North Texas Health Science Center
Ft. Worth, TX 76107

Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Iowa (2020).
M.A. Anthropology, University of Iowa (2017).
B.A. Anthropology, Colorado State University (2012).

Curriculum Vitae

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My research examines the morphological consequences of selection for non-aggressive behavior.  Animal domestication and human “self-domestication” theories posit that reduced aggression is the underlying cause of many unintended physical features that emerge in domesticated animals, including tooth size diminution. My research specifically focuses on how hormones mediating aggression (i.e., testosterone, serotonin, etc.) also play regulatory roles during dental development and how selection affecting aggressive behavior yields unintended changes to dentition. Through a collaborative project between the University of Iowa, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, Russia, my work assesses dental size and composition across strains of tame, aggressive, and unselected (wild type) foxes to measure the impact of behavioral selection on dental structures. My work so far has demonstrated that, as expected, tameness does cause dental size reduction. These results support long held, yet untested postulations that heritable aspects of behavior have pleiotropic effects on dental tissue development.  Those interested in domesticated foxes can check out some of the numerous popular science articles about them and any of the scientific articles describing their domestication process.


Selected Publications

  • Wood EK, Maddux SD, Southard TE, Kharlamova A, Trut L, Franciscus RG. The effect of behavioral selection on the dentition of Russian silver foxes and its implications for human dental evolution. The FASEB Journal, 2019. 33 (Supplement 1), 452.19.
  • Wood EK, Maddux SD, Southard TE, Kharlamova A, Trut L, Franciscus RG. Dental size reduction in tame Russian silver foxes and its implications for the ‘self-domestication’ model in hominin evolution. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 2018 . S66: 306
  • Maddux SD, Wood EK, Southard TE, Kharlamova A, Trut L, Franciscus RG. Patterns of morphometric change in experimentally domesticated foxes: Implications for ‘self-domestication’ in human evolution. Texas Association of Biological Anthropologists. 2017 . http://txbioanth.org/media/uploads/files/TABA_2017_Program.pdf
  • Wood EK, Maddux SD, Southard TE, Kharlamova A, Trut L, Franciscus RG. Hard tissue patterns of change in Russian silver foxes: the dentition. 2017. Conference in commemoration of the centenary (1917-2017) of the birth of Dmitri Belyaev (Novosibirsk, Russia).


At UNTHSC, I teach dissection-based anatomy to Medical, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, and Graduate students.

Courses Taught
  • MEDE 7811: Musculoskeletal and Skin Systems 1 (medical students)
  • MEDE 7812: Nervous System 1 (medical students).
  • MEDE 7615: Cardiopulmonary System 1 (medical students).
  • MEDE 7611: Gastrointestinal & Renal Systems 1 (medical students).
  • MEDE 7715: Reproductive & Endocrine Systems 1 (medical students).
  • DPHT 7200 & 7400: Clinical Anatomy 1 & 2 (physical therapy students).
  • MPAS 5401 & 5208: Clinical Anatomy 1 & 2 (physician assistant students).
  • SARS 5401: Structural Anatomy (graduate students)