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Estimating body mass in subadult human skeletons



Methods for estimating body mass from the human skeleton are often required for research in biological or forensic anthropology. There are currently only two methods for estimating body mass in subadults: the width of the distal femur metaphysis is useful for individuals 1–12 years of age and the femoral head is useful for older subadults. This article provides age-structured formulas for estimating subadult body mass using midshaft femur cross-sectional geometry (polar second moments of area). The formulas were developed using data from the Denver Growth Study and their accuracy was examined using an independent sample from Franklin County, Ohio. Body mass estimates from the midshaft were compared with estimates from the width of the distal metaphysis of the femur. Results indicate that accuracy and bias of estimates from the midshaft and the distal end of the femur are similar for this contemporary cadaver sample. While clinical research has demonstrated that body mass is one principle factor shaping cross-sectional geometry of the subadult midshaft femur, clearly other biomechanical forces, such as activity level, also play a role. Thus formulas for estimating body mass from femoral measurements should be tested on subadult populations from diverse ecological and cultural circumstances to better understand the relationship between body mass, activity, diet, and morphology during ontogeny. Am J Phys Anthropol 143:146–150, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.