The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Testing uniqueness of Inuit cranial shape and its effect on climate-shape analysis


1Dept. of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, 2Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology, Senckenberg Research Institute, 3Dept. of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 4Dept. of Cell and Developmental Biology, University College London

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Significant correlations between climate and cranial shape are thought to be driven by the inclusion of Inuit samples in the analyses (Harvati & Weaver 2006 Anat. Rec. 288A 1225-1233). This suggests a unique or extreme cranial morphology for the Inuit. We use geometric morphometric methods to (1) study the effect of including cold climate populations in analyses of climate versus cranial shape and (2) study the uniqueness of Inuit craniofacial shape. Our sample consists of 100 crania from 5 climatic regions. Regression of cranial shape on mean temperature and vapor pressure shows that excluding cold climate populations does not decrease, but in fact slightly increases the total percentage of cranial variation explained by climate in our sample. Using Principal Component Analyses we then describe the overall observed cranial variation. The Inuit sample does not show a unique morphology on any of the PCs. A clear climatic grouping appears on PC1 vs. PC2, with the Inuit sample grouping with other cold climate populations. Partial Least Squares analysis of total cranial shape versus climate also clearly shows that the Inuit cranial shape resembles that of other cold populations. A PLS analysis of craniofacial shape versus nasal cavity shape shows co-variation between craniofacial and nasal cavity shape. The Inuit sample represents an intermediate combination of nasal cavity and facial traits. Our results suggest that the cranial morphology of the Inuit is neither extreme nor unique, and that this group follows the climate-related trend seen in other populations.

This study was funded by: University of Tübingen and Senckenberg Research Institution.

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