Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Grantee Spotlight: Elizabeth Moffett

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We are pleased to introduce Elizabeth Moffett, PhD candidate from University of Missouri, who was awarded a Leakey Foundation research grant in December 2014 for her project entitled “Birth and its effects on anthropoid pelvic shape and integration.”

Elizabeth Moffett Elizabeth Moffett

Birth selection is thought to be one of the most important pressures shaping the primate pelvis. Yet, it remains unclear if and how obstetric (birth-related) selection produces consistent changes in pelvic form among primates with rigorous birth demands compared to species with relatively easy labors. Thus, there is a discrepancy between the hypothesized importance of birth in shaping the pelvis and what we actually know about the effects of obstetric demand on pelvic form. This discrepancy significantly hinders the interpretations we can make about functional pelvic morphology or how pelvic form is related to its function in extant and extinct primates, including hominins.

My research aims to explore the effects of birth-related selection on the bony pelvis using three-dimensional landmark coordinate data; this data will be collected on skeletal specimens from extant (i.e., non-extinct) primate species. Specifically, my research aims to answer the following questions: How does obstetric selection influence dimorphism, or differences between males and females within species, in the bony birth canal among primates? How do patterns of dimorphism in the birth canal correspond to patterns of dimorphism in the non-obstetric pelvis? How does obstetric demand shape integration patterns, or patterns of trait covariation, in the primate pelvis? Enhanced understanding of how obstetric demand influences pelvic form among living primates will provide insight into the form-function relationship in the primate pelvis. Moreover, this research will enable future researchers to make inferences about birth difficulty in extinct primates, including our closest fossil relatives.

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