Geometric Morphometric Studies in the Human Spine

Markus Bastir, Nicole Torres-Tamayo, Carlos A. Palancar, Stephanie Lois-Zlolniski, Daniel García-Martínez, Alberto Riesco-López, Daniel Vidal, Esther Blanco-Pérez, Alon Barash, Shahed Nalla, Sandra Martelli, Juan Alberto Sanchis-Gimeno, Stefan Schlager

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This chapter overviews the theoretical basics of geometric morphometrics (GM) and reviews its potential for the study of hominin vertebrae and vertebral columns. We show that challenges are related to seriality and the metameric nature of the spine. Measuring a series of vertebrae is a time-consuming process because the necessary sample sizes need to be multiplied by the number of vertebrae composing the spine or its anatomical parts. This is particularly true when measuring 3D semilandmarks of curves and surfaces in virtual anthropology. The lack of independence among vertebral series of a skeleton and the complex conceptual relation between the shape of vertebrae (parts) and the effect of their shapes on the morphology of the entire spine (whole) offer statistical challenges for the analyses. We provide a review of GM studies that have been carried out so far on the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine and finish each of these sections with an application example of GM reconstructions of vertebrae and/or spines. We close the review with a critical discussion of the relevant advantages and limitations of these methods in any GM analysis of vertebrae and spines in palaeoanthropology.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpinal Evolution
Subtitle of host publicationMorphology, Function, and Pathology of the Spine in Hominoid Evolution
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9783030193492
ISBN (Print)9783030193485
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019.


  • Quantitative reconstructions
  • Seriality
  • Vertebrae
  • Vertebral column
  • Virtual morphology


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