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The interaction of neutral evolutionary processes with climatically-driven adaptive changes in the 3D shape of the human os coxae

The interaction of neutral evolutionary processes with climatically-driven adaptive changes in the 3D shape of the human os coxae

Journal of Human Evolution 73: 64-74

Differences in the breadth of the pelvis among modern human populations and among extinct hominin species have often been interpreted in the light of thermoregulatory adaptation, whereby a larger pelvic girdle would help preserve body temperature in cold environments while a narrower pelvis would help dissipate heat in tropical climates. There is, however, a theoretical problem in interpreting a pattern of variation as evidence of selection without first accounting for the effects of neutral evolutionary processes (i.e., mutation, genetic drift and migration). Here, we analyse 3D configurations of 27 landmarks on the os coxae of 1494 modern human individuals representing 30 male and 23 female populations from five continents and a range of climatic conditions. We test for the effects of climate on the size and shape of the pelvic bone, while explicitly accounting for population history (i.e., geographically-mediated gene flow and genetic drift). We find that neutral processes account for a substantial proportion of shape variance in the human os coxae in both sexes. Beyond the neutral pattern due to population history, temperature is a significant predictor of shape and size variation in the os coxae, at least in males. The effect of climate on the shape of the pelvic bone, however, is comparatively limited, explaining only a small percentage of shape variation in males and females. In accordance with previous hypotheses, the size of the os coxae tends to increase with decreasing temperature, although the significance of the association is reduced when population history is taken into account. In conclusion, the shape and size of the human os coxae reflect both neutral evolutionary processes and climatically-driven adaptive changes. Neutral processes have a substantial effect on pelvic variation, suggesting such factors will need to be taken into account in future studies of human and fossil hominin coxal variation.

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Accession: 056388333

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PMID: 24935167

DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.02.021

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