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Evolution. 2011 May;65(5):1336-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01226.x. Epub 2011 Feb 7.

Divergent patterns of integration and reduced constraint in the human hip and the origins of bipedalism.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


When compared to other hominids--great apes including humans--the human pelvis reveals a fundamental reorganization of bony morphology comprised of multiple trait-level changes, many of which are associated with bipedal locomotion. Establishing how patterns of integration--correlations and covariances among traits--within the pelvis have evolved in concert with morphology is essential to explaining this evolutionary transition because integration may facilitate or constrain morphological evolution. Here, we show that the human hip bone has significantly lower levels of integration and constraint overall when compared to other hominids, that the focus of these changes is on traits hypothesized to play major functional roles in bipedalism, and we provide evidence that the human hip was reintegrated in a pattern distinct from other members of this group. Additionally, the evolutionary transition from a nonhuman great ape-like to human hip bone morphology was significantly easier to traverse using the human integration pattern in each comparison, which suggests hominin patterns may have evolved to facilitate this transition. Our results suggest natural selection for bipedalism broke down earlier hominid integration patterns, allowing relevant traits to respond to separate selection pressures to a greater extent than was previously possible, and reintegrated traits in a way that could have facilitated evolution along the vector specifying ancestral hominid and hominin morphological differences.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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