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Sex classification using the human sacrum: Geometric morphometrics versus conventional approaches


Krenn, Viktoria A; Webb, Nicole M; Fornai, Cinzia; Haeusler, Martin (2022). Sex classification using the human sacrum: Geometric morphometrics versus conventional approaches. PLoS ONE, 17(4):e0264770.

Abstract

The human pelvis shows marked sexual dimorphism that stems from the conflicting selective pressures of bipedal locomotion and parturition. The sacrum is thought to reflect this dimorphism as it makes up a significant portion of the pelvic girdle. However, reported sexual classification accuracies vary considerably depending on the method and reference sample (54%-98%). We aim to explore this inconsistency by quantifying sexual dimorphism and sex classification accuracies in a geographically heterogeneous sample by comparing 3D geometric morphometrics with the more commonly employed linear metric and qualitative assessments. Our sample included 164 modern humans from Africa, Europe, Asia, and America. The geometric morphometric analysis was based on 44 landmarks and 56 semilandmarks. Linear dimensions included sacral width, corpus depth and width, and the corresponding indices. The qualitative inspection relied on traditional macroscopic features such as proportions between the corpus of the first sacral vertebrae and the alae, and sagittal and coronal curvature of the sacrum. Classification accuracy was determined using linear discriminant function analysis for the entire sample and for the largest subsamples (i.e., Europeans and Africans). Male and female sacral shapes extensively overlapped in the geometric morphometric investigation, leading to a classification accuracy of 72%. Anteroposterior corpus depth was the most powerful discriminating linear parameter (83%), followed by the corpus-area index (78%). Qualitative inspection yielded lower accuracies (64–76%). Classification accuracy was higher for the Central European subsample and diminished with increasing geographical heterogeneity of the subgroups. Although the sacrum forms an integral part of the birth canal, our results suggest that its sex-related variation is surprisingly low. Morphological variation thus seems to be driven also by other factors, including body size, and sacrum shape is therefore likely under stronger biomechanical rather than obstetric selection.

Abstract

The human pelvis shows marked sexual dimorphism that stems from the conflicting selective pressures of bipedal locomotion and parturition. The sacrum is thought to reflect this dimorphism as it makes up a significant portion of the pelvic girdle. However, reported sexual classification accuracies vary considerably depending on the method and reference sample (54%-98%). We aim to explore this inconsistency by quantifying sexual dimorphism and sex classification accuracies in a geographically heterogeneous sample by comparing 3D geometric morphometrics with the more commonly employed linear metric and qualitative assessments. Our sample included 164 modern humans from Africa, Europe, Asia, and America. The geometric morphometric analysis was based on 44 landmarks and 56 semilandmarks. Linear dimensions included sacral width, corpus depth and width, and the corresponding indices. The qualitative inspection relied on traditional macroscopic features such as proportions between the corpus of the first sacral vertebrae and the alae, and sagittal and coronal curvature of the sacrum. Classification accuracy was determined using linear discriminant function analysis for the entire sample and for the largest subsamples (i.e., Europeans and Africans). Male and female sacral shapes extensively overlapped in the geometric morphometric investigation, leading to a classification accuracy of 72%. Anteroposterior corpus depth was the most powerful discriminating linear parameter (83%), followed by the corpus-area index (78%). Qualitative inspection yielded lower accuracies (64–76%). Classification accuracy was higher for the Central European subsample and diminished with increasing geographical heterogeneity of the subgroups. Although the sacrum forms an integral part of the birth canal, our results suggest that its sex-related variation is surprisingly low. Morphological variation thus seems to be driven also by other factors, including body size, and sacrum shape is therefore likely under stronger biomechanical rather than obstetric selection.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:6 April 2022
Deposited On:09 Jan 2023 11:30
Last Modified:28 Jun 2024 01:37
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0264770
PubMed ID:35385483
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)