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Revisiting scoliosis in the KNM-WT 15000 Homo erectus skeleton


Schiess, Regula; Böni, Thomas; Rühli, Frank J; Häusler, Martin (2014). Revisiting scoliosis in the KNM-WT 15000 Homo erectus skeleton. Journal of Human Evolution, 67:48-59.

Abstract

Owing to its completeness, the 1.5 million year old Nariokotome boy skeleton KNM-WT 15000 is central for understanding skeletal biology of Homo erectus. Nevertheless, since Latimer and Ohman (2001, Axial dysplasia in Homo erectus. J Hum Evol 40:A12) reported on asymmetries and distortions of Nariokotome boy’s axial skeleton suggesting adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, possibly associated with congenital skeletal dysplasia, it is questionable whether it still can be used as reference for Homo erectus. Recently, however, the presence of skeletal dysplasia has been refuted. Here, we present a morphologic and morphometric reanalysis of the assertion of idiopathic scoliosis. We demonstrate that unarticulated vertebral columns of non-scoliotic and scoliotic individuals can be distinguished based on the lateral deviation of the spinous process, lateral and sagittal wedging, vertebral body torsion, pedicle thickness asymmetry and asymmetry of the superior and inferior articular facet area. A principal component analysis of the overall asymmetry of all seven vertebral shape variables groups KNM-WT 15000 within non-scoliotic modern humans. An anomaly of vertebrae T1-T2 is compatible with a short left convex curve at the uppermost thoracic region, possibly due to injury or local growth dysbalance. Asymmetries of the facet joints L3-L5 suggest a local right convex curve in the lower lumbar region that probably resulted from juvenile traumatic disc herniation. This pattern is incompatible with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or other types of scoliosis, including congenital, neuromuscular or syndromic scoliosis. It is, however, consistent with a recent reanalysis of the rib cage that did not reveal any asymmetry. Except for these possibly trauma-related anomalies, the Nariokotome boy fossil therefore seems to belong to a normal Homo erectus youth without evidence for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or other severe pathologies of the axial skeleton.

Owing to its completeness, the 1.5 million year old Nariokotome boy skeleton KNM-WT 15000 is central for understanding skeletal biology of Homo erectus. Nevertheless, since Latimer and Ohman (2001, Axial dysplasia in Homo erectus. J Hum Evol 40:A12) reported on asymmetries and distortions of Nariokotome boy’s axial skeleton suggesting adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, possibly associated with congenital skeletal dysplasia, it is questionable whether it still can be used as reference for Homo erectus. Recently, however, the presence of skeletal dysplasia has been refuted. Here, we present a morphologic and morphometric reanalysis of the assertion of idiopathic scoliosis. We demonstrate that unarticulated vertebral columns of non-scoliotic and scoliotic individuals can be distinguished based on the lateral deviation of the spinous process, lateral and sagittal wedging, vertebral body torsion, pedicle thickness asymmetry and asymmetry of the superior and inferior articular facet area. A principal component analysis of the overall asymmetry of all seven vertebral shape variables groups KNM-WT 15000 within non-scoliotic modern humans. An anomaly of vertebrae T1-T2 is compatible with a short left convex curve at the uppermost thoracic region, possibly due to injury or local growth dysbalance. Asymmetries of the facet joints L3-L5 suggest a local right convex curve in the lower lumbar region that probably resulted from juvenile traumatic disc herniation. This pattern is incompatible with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or other types of scoliosis, including congenital, neuromuscular or syndromic scoliosis. It is, however, consistent with a recent reanalysis of the rib cage that did not reveal any asymmetry. Except for these possibly trauma-related anomalies, the Nariokotome boy fossil therefore seems to belong to a normal Homo erectus youth without evidence for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or other severe pathologies of the axial skeleton.

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3 citations in Web of Science®
3 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:13 Feb 2014 07:50
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:39
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0047-2484
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.12.009
PubMed ID:24491377
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-92705

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