Convex hull estimation of mammalian body segment parameters


Obtaining accurate values for body segment parameters (BSPs) is fundamental in many biomechanical studies, particularly for gait analysis. Convex hulling, where the smallest-possible convex object that surrounds a set of points is calculated, has been suggested as an effective and time-efficient method to estimate these parameters in extinct animals, where soft tissues are rarely preserved. We investigated the effectiveness of convex hull BSP estimation in a range of extant mammals, to inform the potential future usage of this technique with extinct taxa. Computed tomography scans of both the skeleton and skin of every species investigated were virtually segmented. BSPs (the mass, position of the centre of mass and inertial tensors of each segment) were calculated from the resultant soft tissue segments, while the bone segments were used as the basis for convex hull reconstructions. We performed phylogenetic generalized least squares and ordinary least squares regressions to compare the BSPs calculated from soft tissue segments with those estimated using convex hulls, finding consistent predictive relationships for each body segment. The resultant regression equations can, therefore, be used with confidence in future volumetric reconstruction and biomechanical analyses of mammals, in both extinct and extant species where such data may not be available.

In R. Soc. Open Sci 8, 210836 (2021)
Thomas A. Püschel
Thomas A. Püschel
Postdoctoral researcher

I am a palaeoprimatologist and vertebrate palaeobiologist mainly focused on primate and mammalian evolution. My main interest is to study organismal evolution by reconstructing and comparing the palaeobiology of fossils to their living ecological relatives. In order to do this, I apply a combination of predictive modelling, 3D morphometrics, virtual biomechanical techniques, computational simulations, phylogenetic comparative methods, and fieldwork. I have recently joined the Venditti group, University of Reading, within the framework of the Leverhulme project ‘The evolutionary and biogeographical routes to hominin diversity’. I am also a research affiliate at the Institute of Human Sciences, University of Oxford, where I work together with the Paleo-Primate Project Gorongosa, Mozambique.