Paola Cerrito

Paola Cerrito, Dr.

Tel.: +41 44 635 54 27



Research interests

I am an evolutionary primatologist (PhD, ’22, New York University) interested in the selective pressures and proximal mechanisms that have shaped and allowed for the evolution of our peculiar life history on one hand, and social cognition on the other. Is it possible to create unifying frameworks linking the energetic budget of a species, to its social and breeding behavior, and all the way to its empathic abilities?  To address these questions, my research builds upon contributions from a variety of disciplines, e.g. hominin paleobiology, primate comparative neurobiology and communication and life history theory.

During my postdoc, I take a comparative approach to investigate the presence of shared neurobiological traits that could help explain the high levels of sociality observed in some primates, including humans. Based on previous work on humans and naked mole rats, I hypothesizes that the timing of brain development is critical for the development of prosocial traits. Neural connectivity occurs while the infant is cared for by – and establishes effective communication with – a plurality of individuals including caregivers and play partners. To test my hypothesis I use noninvasive methods such as structural magnetic resonance imaging and behavioral observations of marmosets, humans and other primates (e.g. chimpanzees and macaques).

This project is generously funded by the Collegium Helveticum’s Junior Fellowship and by the University of Zurich’s Postdoc Grant.


Cerrito, P. and Spear J. K. (2022). A milk-sharing economy allows placental mammals to overcome their metabolic limit. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 119(10), e2114674119

Cerrito P., Nava A., Radovčić D., Borić D., Cerrito L., Basdeo T., Ruggiero G., Frayer D. W., Kao A. P., Bondioli L., Mancini L. and Bromage Timothy G. (2022). Dental cementum virtual histology of Neanderthal teeth from Krapina (Croatia, 130–120 kyr): an informed estimate of age, sex and adult stressors. Journal of the Royal Society Interface.19: 20210820

Cerrito, P., Bromage, T.G., Naji, S. (2022). Imaging dental cementum: optical microscopy methods. In Dental Cementum in Anthropology. (Eds. Naji, S., Rendu, W., Gourichon, L.) Cambridge University Press.

Mahoney, P., McFarlane, G., Smith, H., Miszkiewicz, J., Frayer, D., Cerrito, P., Liversidge, H., Mancini, L., Cristiani, E., Behie, A., Coppa, A., Bondioli, L., Radovčić, D., Nava, A. (2021). The growth of Neanderthal infants reconstructed from virtual histology of deciduous teeth. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 288(1963), 20212079

Tarity, D., Vigdorchik, J., Westrich, G., Gonzalez Della Valle, A., Cerrito, P., Baral, E., Bromage, T.G., Bauer, T.W. (2021). Adaptive Immune Response Associated with a Zirconium-Containing, Cemented, Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Case Report. JBSJ Case Connector. 11(3), e21

Cerrito, P. and DeCasien, A.R. (2021). The expression of care: neural control of facial muscles and allomaternal care in primates. Evolution, 75(7), pp.1727-1737

Cerrito, P., Cerrito, L., Hu, B., Bailey, S. E., Kalisher, R., Bromage, T.G. (2021). Weaning, parturitions and illnesses are recorded in Rhesus Macaque (M. mulatta) dental cementum microstructure. American Journal of Primatology, 83(3), e23235.

Cerrito, P., Bailey, S. E., Hu, B., Bromage, T.G. (2020). Parturitions, menopause and other physiological stressors are recorded in dental cementum microstructure. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1-10