Variation in pelvic shape and size in Eastern European males: a computed tomography comparative study

PeerJ. 2019 Feb 20;7:e6433. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6433. eCollection 2019.


Background: The significantly accelerated development of human society in the last millennium has brought about changes in human behavior and body mass that may have influenced human bone morphology. Our objective was to analyze the variation in pelvic shape and size in males from modern and medieval populations.

Methods: We obtained 22 pelvic girdles of adult males from a medieval cemetery located in Cedynia, Poland. The control group comprised 31 contemporary male pelves from individuals inhabiting the same region. The analyzed parameters were: interspinous distance (ISD), intercristal distance (ICD), intertuberous distance (ITD), anatomic conjugate of the pelvis, height of the pelvis (HP), iliac opening angle (IOA), iliac tilt angle (ITA), and ISD/ITD/HP ratio. Geometric morphometrics was used to analyze differences in shape in the pelves. All analyses were carried out on three-dimensional CT reconstructions of pelves.

Results: ISD, ICD, and IOA were significantly greater in modern pelves than in those from Cedynia, but no significant differences were seen between the two groups in ITD, anatomical conjugate, HP, or ITA. ISD/ITD/HP ratios were significantly lower in the Cedynia group. Geometric morphometrics revealed significant differences in pelvic shape between the analyzed groups.

Discussion: The pelves of modern males are larger, wider, and flatter than those of medieval males. Changes in the set of daily activities that produce mechanical loading and estimated body mass may constitute the main factors explaining pelvic variability. However, differences in ontogenesis should also be taken into consideration, especially since growth in past populations is often found to be reduced relative to modern populations.

Keywords: Geometric morphometrics; Medieval population; Three-dimensional reconstruction.

Grant support

This study was financed by the University of Medical Sciences (No. 502-14-01115158-41058) and the National Science Centre in Poland (No. NCN 2015/19/N/NZ8/00177). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.