Sex-Related Shape Dimorphism in the Human Radiocarpal and Midcarpal Joints



Previous research has revealed significant size differences between human male and female carpal bones but it is unknown if there are significant shape differences as well. This study investigated sex-related shape variation and allometric patterns in five carpal bones that make up the radiocarpal and midcarpal joints in modern humans. We found that many aspects of carpal shape (76% of all variables quantified) were similar between males and females, despite variation in size. However, 10 of the shape ratios were significantly different between males and females, with at least one significant shape difference observed in each carpal bone. Within-sex standard major axis regressions (SMA) of the numerator (i.e., the linear variables) on the denominator (i.e., the geometric mean) for each significantly different shape ratio indicated that most linear variables scaled with positive allometry in both males and females, and that for eight of the shape ratios, sex-related shape variation is associated with statistically similar sex-specific scaling relationships. Only the length of the scaphoid body and the height of the lunate triquetrum facet showed a significantly higher SMA slope in females compared with males. These findings indicate that the significant differences in the majority of the shape ratios are a function of subtle (i.e., not statistically significant) scaling differences between males and females. There are a number of potential developmental, functional, and evolutionary factors that may cause sex-related shape differences in the human carpus. The results highlight the potential for subtle differences in scaling to result in functionally significant differences in shape. Anat Rec, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.