Body mass is an ecologically and biomechanically important variable in the study of hominin biology. Regression equations derived from recent human samples allow for the reasonable prediction of body mass of later, more human-like, and generally larger hominins from hip joint dimensions, but potential differences in hip biomechanics across hominin taxa render their use questionable with some earlier taxa (i.e., Australopithecus spp.). Morphometric prediction equations using stature and bi-iliac breadth avoid this problem, but their applicability to early hominins, some of which differ in both size and proportions from modern adult humans, has not been demonstrated. Here we use mean stature, bi-iliac breadth, and body mass from a global sample of human juveniles ranging in age from 6 to 12 years (n = 530 age- and sex-specific group annual means from 33 countries/regions) to evaluate the accuracy of several published morphometric prediction equations when applied to small humans. Though the body proportions of modern human juveniles likely differ from those of small-bodied early hominins, human juveniles (like fossil hominins) often differ in size and proportions from adult human reference samples and, accordingly, serve as a useful model for assessing the robustness of morphometric prediction equations. Morphometric equations based on adults systematically underpredict body mass in the youngest age groups and moderately overpredict body mass in the older groups, which fall in the body size range of adult Australopithecus (∼26–46 kg). Differences in body proportions, notably the ratio of lower limb length to stature, influence predictive accuracy. Ontogenetic changes in these body proportions likely influence the shift in prediction error (from under- to overprediction). However, because morphometric equations are reasonably accurate when applied to this juvenile test sample, we argue these equations may be used to predict body mass in small-bodied hominins, despite the potential for some error induced by differing body proportions and/or extrapolation beyond the original reference sample range.
Journal of Human Evolution – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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