Meaning of biodistance statistics: A test case using adult monozygotic twins

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Abstract

Anthropometry, historically one of the primary research techniques in physical anthropology, has been widely utilized in biodistance studies. The complex genetic and environmental interaction that governs the expression of anthropometric dimensions, together with concerns over measurement error, have sometimes clouded the interpretation of biodistances based upon anthropometry. In this study, 51 pairs of adult monozygotic twins were analysed using discriminant analysis and Mahalanobis' generalized distance. Both male and female twins, grouped by first- versus second-born, displayed very small, statistically insignificant distances between groups. When literature estimates of intra-observer measurement errors were used as a frame of reference, the average absolute differences between the twin pairs were approximately twice the size of the measurement error estimates. The results of this study suggest that, first, the environmental effect upon the genetically influenced traits measured by anthropometry is not large enough to bring about significant multivariate differences between identical twin pairs; and, second, biodistance studies based upon anthropometry can be reliable so long as measurement error is minimized.

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