Changes in the sexual dimorphism of the human mandible during the last 1200 years in Central Europe

Homo. 2013 Dec;64(6):437-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jchb.2013.05.003. Epub 2013 Sep 1.


According to many investigations, changes in mandibular morphology can occur synchronously with changes in the environment, and sexual dimorphism of the mandible can be influenced by the environment. Sexual dimorphism during the last 1200 years was evaluated using geometric morphometric analysis of virtual cranial models. The method of geometric morphometrics allows differences in size and shape to be assessed separately. We analyzed groups of adult individuals dating to Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, Early Modern Ages and from a modern Czech population (21st century). Significant sexual dimorphism in mandibular size was found in all populations. A trend in the sexual dimorphism of size was seen, with differences between the sexes increasing gradually over time. Size changes in female mandibles were a better reflection of environmental conditions and climate than size changes in male mandibles. Regarding changes in the sexual dimorphism of shape, significant dimorphism was found in all four samples. However, the pattern of mandibular shape dimorphism was different and varied considerably between samples. There was only one stable shape trait showing sexual dimorphism across all four samples in our study: the gonion lies more laterally in male than in female mandibles and male mandibles are relatively wider than female mandibles. Sexual dimorphism of shape is not influenced by the climate; instead sexual selection might play a role. This research supports earlier studies that have found that the degree and pattern of sexual dimorphism is population-specific and the factors regulating sexual dimorphism today may not be the same as those in the past.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Climate
  • Diet
  • Environment
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Fossils*
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors*