geometric morphometrics

Paul O'Higgins

Geometric morphometric studies of skeletal growth and form variability in relation to function and evolutionary history

Studies of craniofacial variation in primates.

These seek to relate craniofacial variation within and between species to ontogenetic processes. They serve as a framework for the interpretation of the fossil record. Collaborators in these studies include Dr Sam Cobb, Dr Andrea Cardini and Dr Markus Bastir, FME HYMS; Dr Una Strand Vidarsdottir, University of Durham.

In this image the first two principal components of shape variation during ontogeny of two related primate species - baboons (red) and mangabeys (blue) are compared and visualised. The application of these methods to comparative ontogeny has provided new insights into how sexual dimorphism and differences among species relate to ontogeny.



This image from a recent study recent study (Bastir et al. 2008. Anatomical Record, 291(2):130-40) shows an application of geometric morphometrics to the identification of features of the middle cranial fossa that differentiate archaic and modern human middle cranial fossae and which may explain differences in facial hafting. 


Studies of postcranial variation

These studies utilise geometric morphometric methods and functional modelling approaches to explore links between form and function in extant primates and other mammals and to provide a basis for the functional interpretation of fossil material. Collaborators include Professor Roberto Machiarell, Dép. Géosciences, Université de Poitiers, Dr Luca Bondioli, Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico 'L. Pigorini', Rome, and formerly; Dr Will Harcourt-Smith, American Museum of Natural History; Prof Leslie Aiello, Wenner Gren Foundation, New York; Dr Nick Milne and Dr Chen Xinmin, Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia and Sandra Martelli, UCL


These geometric morphometric methods are currently being exploited in the forensic context through the support of the Australian Research Council. The aim is to improve the identification of human remains and to examine ways in which geometric morphometrics can improve facial reconstruction based on the form of the facial skeleton. Collaborators on this project are Professor Charles Oxnard, Dr Ian Dadour, Robin Napper and Dr Dan Franklin, University of Western Australia

This link  connects to a television report about this work 


A further application of geometric morphometric methods to classifying archaeological animal remains as part of a study of human migrations is currently supported by the AHRC. Collaborators on this project are Dr Keith Dobney, Dept of Archaeology, University of Durham and Professor Jeremy Searle, Biology York.



In addition to these projects the fme wasa partner in a Marie Curie Research Training Network in Virtual Anthropology 2006-2010. The former partners continue their collaborations and maintain and distribute the EVAN geometric morphometric  toolkit through the EVAN Society

Original Collaborators in this network are Gerhard W. WEBER (lead), University of Vienna, Dept. of Anthropology, Austria; Wolfgang RECHEIS, University Hospital Innsbruck, Dept. of Radiology II, Experimental Radiology Austria; Antonio ROSAS, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Museo Nacional de Ciencas Naturales, Dept. of Paleobiology, Spain; José BRAGA, Université Bordeaux 1, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie, UMR 5809 CNRS, France; Ottmar KULLMER, Research Institute Senckenberg, Dept. of Paleoanthropology & Quaternary Paleontology, Germany; Demetrios HALAZONETIS, dHAL Orthodontic Software, Aikaterini Karayanni & Sia E.E., Greece; Jean-Jacques HUBLIN, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Dept. of Human Evolution, Germany, Bruno KUEN, z-Werkzeugbau-gmbh, Zumtobel Staff Toolshop, Rapid Prototyping, Austria; Bernd BREUCKMANN, Breuckmann GmbH, 3D-Digitisation and Industrial Image Processing, Germany; GEO-Redaktion, Gruner + Jahr AG & Co. KG; Jim AUSTIN, Cybula Ltd., Pattern Recognition Systems, UK; Jean-Francois MANGIN, Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, Medical Research Department, Structural Analysis Group, France; Gerd C. WENIGER, Neanderthal Museum Foundation, Germany, Roger Phillips, Department of Computer Science, University of Hull, UK.

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