Bony pelvic canal size and shape in relation to body proportionality in humans


Correspondence to: Helen K. Kurki, Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700, STN CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 2Y2. E-mail:


Obstetric selection acts on the female pelvic canal to accommodate the human neonate and contributes to pelvic sexual dimorphism. There is a complex relationship between selection for obstetric sufficiency and for overall body size in humans. The relationship between selective pressures may differ among populations of different body sizes and proportions, as pelvic canal dimensions vary among populations. Size and shape of the pelvic canal in relation to body size and shape were examined using nine skeletal samples (total female n = 57; male n = 84) from diverse geographical regions. Pelvic, vertebral, and lower limb bone measurements were collected. Principal component analyses demonstrate pelvic canal size and shape differences among the samples. Male multivariate variance in pelvic shape is greater than female variance for North and South Africans. High-latitude samples have larger and broader bodies, and pelvic canals of larger size and, among females, relatively broader medio-lateral dimensions relative to low-latitude samples, which tend to display relatively expanded inlet antero-posterior (A-P) and posterior canal dimensions. Differences in canal shape exist among samples that are not associated with latitude or body size, suggesting independence of some canal shape characteristics from body size and shape. The South Africans are distinctive with very narrow bodies and small pelvic inlets relative to an elongated lower canal in A-P and posterior lengths. Variation in pelvic canal geometry among populations is consistent with a high degree of evolvability in the human pelvis. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:88–101, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.