Costal process of the first sacral vertebra: Sexual dimorphism and obstetrical adaptation

Authors

  • Robert G. Tague

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-4105
    • Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803-4105, USA
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Abstract

The human sacrum is sexually dimorphic, with males being larger than females in most dimensions. Previous studies, though, suggest that females may have a longer costal process of the first sacral vertebra (S1) than males. However, these studies neither quantified nor tested statistically the costal process of S1. This study compares S1 with the five lumbar vertebrae (L1 to L5) for a number of metric dimensions, including costal process length. Four issues are addressed, the: 1) hypothesis that females have a longer costal process of S1 than males; 2)hypothesis that homologous structures (i.e., costal processes of L1 to S1) differ in their direction of sexual dimorphism; 3) importance of the costal process of S1 to the obstetrical capacity of the pelvis; and 4) evolution of sexual dimorphism in costal process length of S1. One hundred ninety-seven individuals, including males and females of American blacks and whites, from the Hamann–Todd and Terry Collections were studied. Results show that males are significantly larger than females for most vertebral measurements, except that females have a significantly longer costal process of S1 than males. Costal process length of S1 is positively correlated with the transverse diameter and circumference of the pelvic inlet. The magnitude of sexual dimorphism in costal process length of S1 ranks this measure among the most highly dimorphic of the pelvis. Compared with the humans in this study, australopithecines have a relatively long costal process of S1, but their broad sacrum was not associated with obstetrical imperatives. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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