There has been a shift in the configuration of the thoracolumbar column from early hominins to later Homo. However, the functional consequences of this shift are not fully understood. I am testing the hypothesis that vertebral formula variation affects the morphology of the vertebral canal. In order to do this, I am using surface areas and 2D geometric morphometrics from scaled photographs to compare the size and shape of the vertebral canal and centrum of thoracolumbar vertebrae. My sample consists of recent modern humans, extant hominoids, and fossil hominins. Initial results suggest that not only does vertebral canal shape and size vary with vertebral formula, but that fossil Homo falls within ranges of human variation while earlier hominins do not.
This research is supported in part by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.
- 2016. Williams SA, Middleton ER, Villamil CI, Shattuck MR. Vertebral numbers and human evolution. Am J Phys Anthropol 159(S61):S19-S36. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22901