Investigation into the usability of geometric morphometric analysis in assessment of sexual dimorphism



Understanding sexual dimorphism is very important in studies of human evolution and skeletal biology. Sexual dimorphic characteristics can be studied morphologically and metrically, although morphologic studies pose several problems such as difficulties with quantification and interobserver error. Geometric morphometrics is a relatively new method that allows better assessment of morphologic characteristics. This paper aims to investigate the usability of this method by assessing three different morphologic characteristics in a sample of South African blacks: shape of the greater sciatic notch, mandibular ramus flexure, and shape of the orbits. Relative warps, thin-plate splines, and canonical variates analysis (CVA) analyses were performed. As expected, the shape of the greater sciatic notch provided the best separation between the sexes. Surprisingly, however, the shape of the orbits performed better that ramus flexure. Several possible explanations for this result are possible, which include the possibility that orbit shape is more sexually dimorphic than previously expected, or that biological reality is not reflected by this technique. More research is, however, needed. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.