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Keywords:

  • Estrogen;
  • Osteoclastic enzymes;
  • Resorption

Abstract

Some adult human females show bone resorption (pitting) at the dorsal aspect of the pubis and preauricular area of the ilium. The etiology of pelvic bone resorption is attributed alternatively to reproduction and to pelvic anatomy. While most researchers infer that pelvic pitting is related to reproduction, only a few studies are based on women of known parity. Degree of pubic resorption is directly associated with both parity (Suchey et al.: Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 51:517–539, 1979; Bergfelder and Hermann: J. Hum. Evol. 9:611–613, 1980) and age (Suchey et al.: Am. J Phys. Anthropol. 51:517–539, 1979). The relationship between parity and degree of resorption of the preauricular area is equivocal, found to be significant by Dunlap (A Study of the Preauricular Sulcus in a Cadaver Population. Ph.D. dissertation, East Lansing, Michigan State University, 1981) but not by Spring et al. (Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 79:247–252, 1989); both studies report that age is not associated with resorption of the preauricular area. Other mammals evidence pubic resorption, but the morphology of the preauricular area is less well known. This study addresses the issue on the etiology of pelvic bone resorption using a sample of Macaca mulatta (the free-ranging population from Cayo Santiago) for which parity and age at death are known for all specimens.

The following results are reported. Resorption of the pubis is common among females but infrequent among males. Contrary to Rawlins (Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 42:477–488, 1975), the degree of pubic resorption in female macaques is significantly related to both parity and age at death. Importantly, not one female or male shows resorption of the preauricular area. The results suggest that there may be different etiologies for resorption of the pubis and preauricular are in humans. The proposed explanation for resorption of the pubis in macaques is that resorption inhibits synostosis of the symphysis pubis and allows for increased pelvic joint mobility during parturition; elevated levels of estrogen during pregnancy promote resorption of the pubis.