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

The influence of body mass on humeral strength: An ontogenetic perspective


Department of Anthropology, University of Missouri

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Analyses in cross-sectional geometry (CSG) have emphasized the upper limb as a possible window into habitual activity patterns that is not complicated by a primarily weight-bearing role. In contrast, while lower limb robusticity has implications for mobility, much of the variation in lower limb strength is related to body mass. However, Ruff (2000) found that CSG properties of the humerus scale with body mass in much the same way as femoral CSG properties. Given this, it may be that there are other processes, either systemic or genetic, that contribute to long bone ultimate shape and structure. This study, which uses immature individuals from seven Holocene samples (n= 516), was undertaken to examine the relationship between body mass and CSG properties of both the upper and lower limbs and the implications of that relationship for the interpretation of activity patterns. Correlation coefficients and 95% confidence intervals were used to evaluate differences in the strength of the relationship between body mass and the upper and lower limbs in six age categories. The results of this study confirm the high degree of correlation between body mass and humeral CSG properties, and found no significant difference in the strength of the correlation between body mass and the upper limb and body mass and the lower limb. In addition, these correlations remained high during growth, indicating a possible systemic factor contributing to the shape of the humerus. Further research is necessary to isolate the specific factors that result in humeral form and robusticity.

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