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

A comparison of catarrhine genetic distances against pelvic and cranial morphology: implications for determining hominin phylogeny


Department of Anthropology, University of Kent

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The extent to which various skeletal elements differ in their reliability for recovering catarrhine phylogenetic history is currently poorly understood. This is partly due to the dichotomization of the cranium and postcranium in studies of evolutionary morphology, with the majority of phylogenetic studies focusing on craniomandibular or dental traits. Here, we test the relative efficacy of the catarrhine pelvis (innominate) and cranium for recovering the genetic relationships of 11 catarrhine taxa including Homo sapiens. Mahalanobis’ distance matrices based on 3D geometric morphometric quantification of the shape of the cranium, mandible and innominate were statistically compared (via Mantel and Dow-Cheverud tests) against a common genetic distance matrix. Analyses were repeated for males and females separately, and with Homo sapiens removed. The results found that, when humans were included, the cranium and pelvis were consistently correlated with the genetic matrix, while the mandible was not. Moreover, there was no statistical difference in the strength of the genetic congruence of the cranium and the pelvis in the sex-specific analyses. When humans were removed from the analysis, all elements were significantly and equally strongly correlated with the genetic matrix. Furthermore, a neighbor-joining analysis of the pelvic dataset found that cercopithecoids and hominoids formed exclusive groups, there was clear distinction between colobine and cercopithecine taxa, and lesser apes were distinguished from great apes (including humans). Hence, these results suggest that there is no a priori reason to favor craniodental data over pelvic morphology when attempting to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of the fossil hominins.

This work was supported by the Leakey Foundation and the EU Synthesys initiative

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