Pelvic morphological variation and sexual dimorphism is of interest to anatomists, anthropologists, and OB/GYNs alike. Sexual differences in pelvic morphology are assumed to relate to the demands of childbirth on females. Recent work has identified these differences in specific areas of the pelvis. However, little is known about how these differences are related to 3D shape changes, how these changes influence the birthing process, and how body size and proportion differences affect these shape changes. Questions addressed in this study include: Are there varying patterns of sexual dimorphism within the pelvis, such that certain areas are more obstetrically influenced than others? Do populations of different body sizes display different patterns of sexual dimorphism? To answer these questions, this study uses cutting-edge geometric morphometric approaches to quantify pelvic morphology. Landmark data will be collected from skeletal collections and from clinical imaging data. Quantitative analyses will determine how pelvic shape varies within and between populations.

Intellectual Merit This is one of the first studies to examine obstetrical adaptations within and between populations using geometric morphometrics. Localizing specific areas of the pelvis that are directly influenced by different selective pressures is important for insight into modern human biological adaptation and the patterns and mechanisms of human evolution.

Broader Impact This study is relevant to a wide range of topics ranging from interpretations of fossil hominins to clinical diagnoses and treatment strategies for pelvic floor disorders. This project involves an interdisciplinary team of anthropologists and clinicians, and will increase dialogue regarding the functional significances of pelvic morphology. Additionally, conclusions from this study will aid in the early identification of women at risk for pelvic floor disorders, which have a negative impact on a woman's quality of life. Funding supports the doctoral dissertation research for a female graduate student

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Carolyn Ehardt
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Johns Hopkins University
United States
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