Standing on the Shoulders of Apes Analyzing the Form and Function of the Hominoid Scapula Using Geometric Morphometrics and Finite Element Analysis


Objective The aim was to analyze the relationship between scapular form and function in hominoids by using geometric morphometrics (GM) and finite element analysis (FEA). Methods FEA was used to analyze the biomechanical performance of different hominoid scapulae by simulating static postural scenarios. GM was used to quantify scapular shape differences and the relationship between form and function was analyzed by applying both multivariate-multiple regressions and phylogenetic generalized leastsquares regressions (PGLS). Results Although it has been suggested that primate scapular morphology is mainly a product of function rather than phylogeny, our results showed that shape has a significant phylogenetic signal. There was a significant relationship between scapular shape and its biomechanical performance; hence at least part of the scapular shape variation is due to non-phylogenetic factors, probably related to functional demands. Discussion This study has shown that a combined approach using GM and FEAwas able to cast some light regarding the functional and phylogenetic contributions in hominoid scapular morphology, thus contributing to a better insight of the association between scapular form and function.

In American Journal of Physical Anthropology 159,325–341 (2016)
Thomas A. Püschel
Thomas A. Püschel
Associate Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology

Wendy James Associate Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, and Tutorial Fellow at St. Hugh’s College. My main academic interest relates to the study of how and why the human and primate bodies have become the way they currently are. To answer this kind of questions, I apply a combination of statistical modelling, 3D morphometrics, virtual biomechanical techniques, computational simulations, phylogenetic comparative methods, and fieldwork. My research has focused on the morphological innovation along the human lineage, primate phylogenetics and adaptive evolution, palaeontological fieldwork in the Rift valley, and the development of new tools to analyse primate form and function in an evolutionary framework.