Three-dimensional anatomy of the anthropoid bony pelvis

Carol V. Ward, Scott D. Maddux, Emily R. Middleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: Pelvic form is hypothesized to reflect locomotor adaptation in anthropoids. Most observed variation is found in the ilium, which traditionally is thought to reflect thoracic and shoulder morphology. This article examines the articulated bony pelvis of anthropoids in three dimensions (3D) to test hypothesized variation in pelvic anatomy related to overall torso form. Materials and Methods: Sixty landmarks were collected on articulated pelves from 240 anthropoid individuals. Landmark data were subjected to a Generalized Procrustes Analysis. Principal Components Analysis was used to identify trends among taxa. Linear metrics were extracted, and bivariate allometric analysis was used to compare intergroup differences and scaling trends of specific dimensions. Results: The combination of 3D and bivariate allometric analysis demonstrates a complex pattern of locomotor/phylogenetic and allometric influences on pelvic morphology. Apes have relatively narrower dorsal interiliac spacing than do most monkeys, with relatively smaller spinal muscle attachment areas but only minimally wider ventral bi-iliac breadths. Hylobatids and atelids have a relatively more cranial position of their sacra than do other taxa, and hylobatids and cercopithecids relatively more retroflexed ischia. Within groups, the three pelvic joints (lumbosacral, sacroiliac, and hip) become relatively closer together with increasing body size. Conclusions: A three-dimensional consideration of the articulated pelvis in anthropoids reveals determinants of pelvic variation not previously appreciated by studies of isolated hipbones. This study provides no support for the hypothesis that the ape pelvis is mediolaterally broader than that of monkeys in relative terms, as would be expected if iliac shape is related to hypothesized differences in thoracic breadth and shoulder orientation. Instead, apes, especially great apes, have relatively narrow sacra and longer lower pelves, related to their shorter, stiffer lumbar spines and torsos. This difference, coupled with strong positive allometry of iliac breadth and negative allometry of key pelvic lengths, along with some variation in ischial morphology in certain taxa, explains much of the variation in pelvic form among anthropoid primates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-25
Number of pages23
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2018


  • allometry
  • geometric morphometrics
  • ilium
  • ischium
  • locomotion
  • morphology
  • pubis
  • torso


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