Protection of obstetric dimensions in a small-bodied human sample


  • Helen K. Kurki

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University Victoria, P.O. Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 3P5
    • Department of Anthropology, University Victoria, P.O. Box 3050 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 3P5
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In human females, the bony pelvis must find a balance between being small (narrow) for efficient bipedal locomotion, and being large to accommodate a relatively large newborn. It has been shown that within a given population, taller/larger-bodied women have larger pelvic canals. This study investigates whether in a population where small body size is the norm, pelvic geometry (size and shape), on average, shows accommodation to protect the obstetric canal. Osteometric data were collected from the pelves, femora, and clavicles (body size indicators) of adult skeletons representing a range of adult body size. Samples include Holocene Later Stone Age (LSA) foragers from southern Africa (n = 28 females, 31 males), Portuguese from the Coimbra-identified skeletal collection (CISC) (n = 40 females, 40 males) and European-Americans from the Hamann–Todd osteological collection (H-T) (n = 40 females, 40 males). Patterns of sexual dimorphism are similar in the samples. Univariate and multivariate analyses of raw and Mosimann shape-variables indicate that compared to the CISC and H-T females, the LSA females have relatively large midplane and outlet canal planes (particularly posterior and A-P lengths). The LSA males also follow this pattern, although with absolutely smaller pelves in multivariate space. The CISC females, who have equally small stature, but larger body mass, do not show the same type of pelvic canal size and shape accommodation. The results suggest that adaptive allometric modeling in at least some small-bodied populations protects the obstetric canal. These findings support the use of population-specific attributes in the clinical evaluation of obstetric risk. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.