Joan Richtsmeier

Joan Richtsmeier

Distinguished Emerita Professor of Anthropology
320 Carpenter Building University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-0562
Joan Richtsmeier

Curriculum Vitae


B.A., St. Mary’s College 1977
M.A., University of Nebraska 1980
Ph.D. Northwestern University, 1985

Professional Bio

Professional Bio

Areas of Specialization:

Dr. Richtsmeier has worked on the problem of determining the contribution of growth pattern to morphology.  Methods developed to study this problem have been applied to the difference in craniofacial growth patterns between  primate species, between the sexes, and between children with craniofacial anomalies and unaffected children.  Dr. Richtsmeier is currently working to characterize the relationship between the genes mutated in premature cranial suture fusion (craniosynostosis) and the craniofacial phenotypes associated with these mutations.  Finally, Dr. Richtsmeier is working to understand the influence of aneuploidy in the production of the phenotype by studying a mouse model for Down syndrome.

Research Activities and Interests:

Dr. Richtsmeier’s current interests include variation in the shape of biological structures, especially of the skull and the brain, and the genetic pathways that underlie that variation.  Dr. Richtsmeier is currently using evolutionary developmental approaches to study the evolution of the interrelationship between brain and skull focusing on specific gene networks that might be responsible for observed change.  Understanding the importance of precise morphological data, Dr. Richtsmeier and collaborators have developed statistical methods for studying shape and shape variation in three dimensions.  These have been applied to the study of skull and brain shape in different diseases that affect the brain and the skull. Typically we use three-dimensional images of the brain (magnetic resonance images) and of the skull (computed tomographic images) of patients with these diseases or  micro- 3D images of animals that have been created in the laboratory to mimic these diseases.

Students in osteology 410 baked a skull cake complete with anatomical labels to celebrate the end of semester.
Students in osteology 410 baked a skull cake complete with anatomical labels to celebrate the end of semester.

Courses Taught:

  • Anth 083S Freshman Seminar
  • Anth 410 Osteology (Syllabus)
  • Anth 463 Morphometrics
  • Anth 466 The Skull (Syllabus)

Recent Publications:

  • Lesciotto, K and JT Richtsmeier 2019 Craniofacial skeletal adaptations to encephalization: How do we know what we think we know? (in press, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology)
  • Holmes, G, C O’Rourke, SM Motch Perrine, H van Bakel, JT Richtsmeier, EW Jabs 2018 Midface and upper airway dysgenesis in FGFR2-craniosynostosis involves multiple tissue-specific and cell cycle effects. Development dev.166488 doi: 10.1242/dev.166488 Published 18 September 2018.
  • Martínez-Abadías, N, R Mateu, J Sastre, S Motch Perrine, M Yoon, A Robert-Moreno, J Swoger, L Russo, K Kawasaki, JT Richtsmeier, J Sharpe 2018 Quantification of gene expression patterns to reveal the origins of abnormal morphogenesis. eLife 2018;7:e36405 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.36405 (article selected to be disseminated to the public as an eLife Digest) [bioRΧiv]
  • Musy, M, K Flaherty, J Raspopovich, A Robert, JT Richtsmeier, J Sharpe 2018 A quantitative method for staging mouse embryos based on limb morphometry. Development, 145, doi:10.1242/dev.154856. PMID: 29540505
  • Richtsmeier, JT 2018 A century of development. Amer J Phys. Anthropol. 165:726-740; NIHMS 926746; doi.10.1002/ajpa.23379 PMID: 29574839
  • Lesciotto, K, Y Heuzé, EW Jabs, JM Bernstein, JT Richtsmeier 2018 Choanal atresia and craniosynostosis: development and disease. Plast Reconstr Surg 141(1):156-168. PMID: 29280877; PMCID: PMC5747311
  • Starbuck JM, Cole TM, Reeves RH, Richtsmeier JT 2018 The Influence of trisomy 21 on facial form and variability. Am J Med Genet A. 173(3) DOI10.1002/ajmg.a.38464 PMID: 28941128, PMCID: PMC5679727.
  • Motch Perrine, SM, T Stecko, R Neuberger, T Ryan, JT Richtsmeier 2017 Integration of brain and skull in prenatal mouse models of Apert and Crouzon syndromes. Front Hum neurosci. 25July, 11:369. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00369. eCollection 2017. PMID: 28790902
  • Kawasaki, K and JT Richtsmeier 2017 Association of the chondrocranium and dermatocranium in early skull development, in: Percival, CJ and JT Richtsmeier (Eds.), Building Bones: Bone Development and Formation in Anthropology, Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. Pp 52-78.
  • Lee, C, JT Richtsmeier, R Kraft 2017 A computational analysis of bone formation in the cranial vault using a coupled reaction-diffusion-strain model. J Mechanics in Med &Bio, May 2017 17(4); NIHMS 853364. PMCID: PMC5722272
  • Heuzé, Y, K Kawasaki, T Schwarz, JJ Schoenebeck, JT Richtsmeier 2016 Developmental and evolutionary significance of the zygomatic bone. Anat Rec 299:1616–1630. PMID: 27870340. doi10.1002/ar.23449.
  • Baab, KL, P Brown, D Falk, JT Richtsmeier, CF Hildebolt, K Smith, W Jungers 2016 A critical evaluation of the Down syndrome diagnosis for LB1, type specimen of Homo floresiensis.  PLoS ONE 11(6): e0155731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155731; PMID: 27275928, PMCID: PMC4898715.
  • Flaherty, KV, N Singh, JT Richtsmeier 2016 Understanding craniosynostosis as a growth disorder. WIREs Dev Biol  5(4):429-59. PMID: 27002187; PMCID: PMC4911263.
  • Singh, N, T Dutka, RH Reeves, JT Richtsmeier 2016 Chronic up-regulation of sonic hedgehog has little effect on postnatal craniofacial morphology of euploid and trisomic mice. Devel dyn 245:114–122.  epub ahead of print doi: 10.1002/dvdy.24361. PMID: 26509735; PMCID: PMC4715749.
  • Weiss, KM, A Buchanan, JT Richtsmeier 2015 How are we made? Even well-controlled experiments show the complexity of our traits. Evol Anthropol 24(4): 130-136. PMID: 26267434 PMCID: PMC4568433
  • Trainor, PA, JT Richtsmeier 2015 Facing up to the challenges of advancing craniofacial research.  Amer J Med Genet, Part A. 167(7):1451-4; PMID: 25820983; PMCID: PMC4478228