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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2011 Jan;144(1):22-9. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21363.

The influence of body proportions on femoral and tibial midshaft shape in hunter-gatherers.

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Department of Anthropology and The Center for Quantitative Imaging, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16802, USA.


Variation in femoral and tibial diaphyseal shape is used as an indicator of adaptation to patterns of terrestrial mobility. Recent experimentation has implied that lower limb diaphyseal shape may be primarily influenced by lower limb length, and less so by mobility patterns. If valid, this would, at most, render previous interpretations of mobility patterns based on analyses of diaphyseal shape questionable, and, at least, require additional standardization that considers the influence of limb length. Although the consequences could be profound, this implication has yet to be directly tested. Additionally, the influence of body breadth on tibial shape (and to a lesser extent femoral shape) remains uncertain. Tibial and femoral cross-sectional midshaft shape measurements, taken from nine Pleistocene and Holocene skeletal populations, were compared against lower limb length, limb segment length, and bi-iliac breadth. Generally, limb length and limb segment length do not significantly influence femoral or tibial midshaft shape. After controlling for body mass greater bi-iliac breadth is associated with a relative mediolateral strengthening of the femoral midshaft, while the influence of a wider body shape (BIB/length) is associated with a relative M-L strengthening of the tibia and femur of males, and the tibia of females. We conclude that; (1) mechanical interpretations of lower limb diaphyseal shape are most parsimonious due to the lack of evidence for a consistent relationship between segment length and shape; however, (2) further work is required to investigate the influence of bi-iliac breadth on both femoral and tibial midshaft shape.

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