The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Three-Dimensional Geometric Morphometric Analysis of Late Pleistocene Femora:Taxonomy and Functional Morphology


Anthropology, Tulane University

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FH Smith has elegantly described the distinctive craniofacial morphology of the Neandertals as a ‘gestalt’ of additive variation in numerous morphometric features that does not include unequivocal taxonomically relevant autapomorphies. Three-dimensional geometric morphometric analysis of 46 landmarks on the complete femur identified a similar pattern of low-level variation among Neandertal and Late Pleistocene Eurasian and recent modern human femora. Individual shape components did not discriminate the Neandertals as a group from modern humans and thus cannot be considered useful for taxonomic assignment of isolated partial femora. However, discriminant function analysis successfully identified Neandertal femora based on subperiosteal shape differences in complete femora from comparative samples representing modern humans spanning the Eurasian Upper Paleolithic to the present. Thus the cumulative variation in the complete femur does provide some taxonomic information. Significantly, the patterns of variation in the geometric relationships of shape components of partial and complete femora are consistent with morphological trajectories resulting from some combination of body mass and activity level differences in in vivo mechanical loading. Thus three-dimensional geometric morphometric methods are robust for investigation of functional geometries in the human locomotor skeleton.

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