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Department of Zoology



I am a population geneticist working at the intersection between evolutionary biology, human culture, and ecology.

The main focus of my work has been analysing the evolution of human and domesticate populations using modern and ancient DNA data, taking into account different factors that could have influenced them.

My interdisciplinary education and training allow me to interpret the results of genetic analyses considering the environmental, cultural and historical context in which they have evolved. 


Key publications: 

M. Leonardi, A. Sandionigi, A. Conzato, S. Vai, M. Lari, S. Ghirotto, F. Tassi, D. Caramelli, G. Barbujani (2018) The female ancestor’s tale: long-term matrilineal continuity in a non-isolated region of Tuscany. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2018; 167:497–506.

M. Leonardi, F. Boschin, K. Giampoudakis, R. M. Beyer, M. Krapp, R. Bendrey, R. Sommer, P. Boscato, A. Manica, D. Noguez-Bravo, L. Orlando (2018) Late quaternary horses in Eurasia in the face of climate and vegetation change. Science Advances 4(7), eaar5589.

M. Leonardi, G. Barbujani, A. Manica (2017) An earlier revolution: genetic and genomic analyses reveal pre-existing cultural differences leading to Neolithization. Scientific Reports 7(1): 3525.

M. Leonardi, P. Librado, C. Der Sarkissian, M. Schubert, A. H. Alfarhan, S. A. Alquraishi, K. A. S. Al-Rasheid, C. Gamba, E. Willerslev, L. Orlando (2017) Evolutionary Patterns and Processes: Lessons from Ancient DNA. Systematic Biology, 66 (1), e1-e29.

M. Leonardi, P. Gerbault, M.G. Thomas, J. Burger (2012) The evolution of lactase persistence in Europe. A synthesis of archaeological and genetic evidence. International Dairy Journal, 22(2): 88-97

Other publications: 

P. Librado, A. Fages, C. Gaunitz, M. Leonardi, S. Wagner, N. Kahn, K. Hanghøj, S. Al Quraishi, A. Alfarhan, K. Al Rasheid, C. Der Sarkissian, M. Schubert, L. Orlando (2016). The evolutionary origin and genetic makeup of domestic horses, Genetics 204(2) (cover article)

E. Heyer, J.-T. Brandenburg, M. Leonardi, B. Toupance, P. Balaresque, T. Hegay, A. Aldashev, F. Austerlitz (2015) Patrilineal populations show more male transmission of reproductive success than cognatic populations in Central Asia, which reduces their genetic diversity. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 157(4):537-43.

M. Leonardi (2013) Lactase persistence and milk consumption in Europe: an interdisciplinary approach involving genetics and archaeology, Documenta Praehistorica 40: 84-96

Research Associate

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