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Keywords:

  • geometric morphometrics;
  • bipedalism;
  • human evolution;
  • locomotion

Abstract

Researchers often attempt to use limb proportions to ascertain the locomotor repertoires of fossil hominins. This can be problematic as there are few skeletons in the fossil record that preserve both a full forelimb and hindlimb; therefore, estimates of full limb lengths are typically associated with substantial error. In this study, two-block partial least squares analyses were used to examine covariation between forelimb and hindlimb elements in extant hominoids and fossil hominins. This has the benefit of including both forelimb and hindlimb in a type of functional analysis without necessitating an accurate length estimate. There is a high degree of covariation between forelimb and hindlimb segments in the mixed species sample, particularly in the proximal ulna, distal humerus, and proximal/distal femur and that shape covariation is significantly correlated with intermembral indices in the extant taxa. Overall, the fossil hominins most closely resembled modern humans with the exception of analyses utilizing the distal femur where some occupied a unique morphological position; thus, some fossil hominins likely possessed locomotor capabilities similar to modern humans, whereas others likely represent a unique morphological compromise between terrestrial bipedality and other positional behaviors not present among extant hominoids. Anat Rec, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.