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

Secular Change in the Length and Breadth of the Bones of the Upper Limb


Program in Forensic Anthropology, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Boston University School of Medicine

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While much of the secular change literature to date has focused upon long bone length as it relates to stature, limited research has dealt with changes in bone breadth. The aim of the present study was to determine the changes that occur both in the breadth of upper limb long bones as well as their lengths.

The study utilized thirteen measurements in the humerus, radius, and ulna of 600 individuals from the Huntington and Terry collections and the Forensic Data Bank. The data was separated by sex and analyzed by decade of birth using a Pearson’s correlation analysis with a 2-tailed t-test.

The results indicated that while all lengths exhibited positive growth in males and females, the same could not be said for breadths. Specifically, in males, four of the nine breadth measurements exhibited no significant change, while three resulted in a reduction in size. Similarly, in females, three measurements resulted in no change, while four exhibited a reduction. The humeral epicondylar breadth and the transverse diameter of the ulna were the only breadth measurements to result in positive growth in both sexes. Finally, while the transverse diameter exhibits a positive growth, the dorso-volar diameter exhibits an equally negative growth in both sexes, suggesting a “rounding” of the ulna.

The results of this study suggest that while the length of the long bones increase over time, breadth has not necessarily changed in a proportional manner.

This project was funded, in part, by the Program in Forensic Anthropology at Boston University School of Medicine in Boston, MA.

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