RESEARCH

EXAMINING PLASTIC ADAPTIVE RESPONSES IN THE GENERATION OF HUMAN SKELETAL VARIATION

Funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant, this project is a collaboration between Dr. Helen Kurki (University of Victoria) and Dr. Lesley Harrington (University of Alberta).

This research uses 3D geometric morphometric approaches to examine the size and shape characteristics of bones of the limbs and vertebrae in archaeologically derived human skeletal samples in relation to traditional skeletal indicators of developmental stress and habitual activity, to elucidate whether and how stress and activity during ontogeny can influence morphology. Anthropologists assume the morphology of extinct hominins largely reflects their evolutionary history as a product of normal growth, rather than plastic responses to environmental stressors. But in order to decipher the meaning of morphological variation in the fossil record we must understand how plastic adaptive responses generate skeletal morphology.

 

HUMAN SKELETAL VARIATION: ADAPTIVE RESPONSES DURING GROWTH OF THE BONY PELVIS

Funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant, this project is a collaboration between Dr. Helen Kurki (University of Victoria) and Dr. Lesley Harrington (University of Alberta).

This research examines the potential role of biological plasticity in shaping the bones of the human pelvis during growth. Human skeletal remains of juveniles from varied and well-documented archaeological contexts provide an opportunity to study factors influencing growth and development in specific ecological (e.g., subsistence, technologies, and geographical location) contexts. In order to understand the potential role of biological plasticity in shaping the maternal pelvis, we ask: when and why does variation in pelvic forms arise, and what role does biological plasticity play in generating variation in relation to environmental stimuli? This study utilizes three-dimensional (3D) approaches to studying the form of juvenile and adult human pelvic bones from diverse skeletal samples to investigate the relationships among ecological and cultural attributes of populations and pelvic growth and development.

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WHY DOES LIMB BONE CURVATURE VARY AMONG HUMANS?: MUSCULOSKELETAL MODELING AND THE ROLE OF MOBILITY IN MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN

Funded by the University of Victoria Internal Research/Creative Project Grant (IRCPG), this project is a collaboration between Dr. Alison Murray (Anthropology) and Dr. Joshua Giles (Mechanical Engineering)

This project seeks to better understand limb bone anterior curvature in the archaeological record, and its potential relationships with walking in uneven terrain, by applying engineering-based musculoskeletal (MSk) biomechanical modelling techniques to three-dimensional laser scan models of curved vs. straight thigh and shin bones from archaeological collections. We investigate the effects of variation in bone curvature on muscle and joint forces in the leg experienced during walking compared to a proxy for walking in a mountainous region: stair-climbing. Results may aid in better understanding the biomechanics of curvature in the archaeological record, particularly among populations living in mountainous terrain, and what this variation means about habitual behaviour and mobility in human evolution.

ADAPTATION, DISPERSALS, AND PHENOTYPE (ADAPT)-TESTING MODELS OF HUMAN ADAPTATION: SKELETAL VARIATION, MOBILITY, AND ENERGETICS

This European Research Council (ERC) grant was awarded to Dr. Jay Stock and was in collaboration with then-Post-doctoral Research Fellow Dr. Alison Murray (Completed Project)

This portion of the larger ADaPt project examined the adaptability of living humans to different environments, through the study of energetic expenditure and life history trade-offs associated with locomotion among 160 ultramarathon runners competing in 150-230 km races across Finnish Lapland, the Peruvian Amazon, southern Spain, and the Nepalese Himalayas.

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