Tafline Arbor, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anatomy


Dr.Tafline ArborTafline Arbor, Ph.D. joined the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine as an Assistant Professor of Anatomy in 2013. Currently, Dr. Arbor is both the Lead Anatomist and the Director of the Anatomy Laboratories at MU-COM. She is an experienced osteopathic educator with a teaching focus in human clinical, functional, and developmental anatomy. Dr. Arbor earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University and her Master of Arts degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She was awarded her doctorate in Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis for her monographic description of the Makapansgat australopithecine assemblage and morphological analyses of South African australopithecines.

Dr. Arbor’s research explores the comparative anatomy, biological variation, and evolutionary history of human and non-human primates. She has been involved in international collaborative research and directed paleontological and paleoanthropological excavations in North America and Africa. Her research on the functional adaptations and phylogenetic relationships of fossil primates and early hominins provide her with a valuable evolutionary and comparative anatomical approach to human clinical anatomy.

Dr. Arbor has extensive accomplishments in university, community, and professional service. Dr. Arbor has been an NBOME Item Writer and Reviewer, Iowa Academy of Science Grant Reviewer, AAPA Physical Anthropology Women’s Mentoring Network Leadership Committee Member, and AAA Advisory Committee of Young Anatomists Committee Member. She has earned numerous grants, fellowships, and awards during her graduate and professional career, some of which include: Evolving Earth Foundation, Stephen J. Gould, Lambda Alpha, Geological Society of America, and Iowa Osteopathic Education and Research Grants; Southern Illinois University Master’s and Washington University Graduate Fellowships; and Carl Neureuther and William S. Pollitzer Awards. Dr. Arbor also has been honored with teaching awards, including a Washington University Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence for her instruction in both undergraduate and medical level human gross anatomy and development courses and a Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Dean’s Award for leading the development and curricular design of the anatomy program.

Clinical/Research Interests

Dr. Arbor’s research focuses on the functional and phylogenetic significance of craniodental morphological variation in human and non-human primate evolution. Her doctoral research, defended in the fall of 2010, is a systematic description and comparative analysis of the morphology of the Makapansgat australopithecines. Her ongoing work contributes to discussions of regional morphological variation in South African australopithecines and the taxonomic and phylogenetic status of Australopithecus africanus. She has a long-term interest in continuing research and paleoanthropological fieldwork to better understand the patterning of anatomic variation and the relationships of our earliest ancestors. Much of Dr. Arbor’s research is grounded in primate comparative anatomical studies to inform broad questions in human and non-human primate evolution.

Dr. Arbor’s expertise in primate evolution and comparative anatomy provides her with a unique perspective on human clinical anatomy and considerable opportunity for involving students in both evolutionary and clinically relevant anatomical research.

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