Pelvic growth: Ontogeny of size and shape sexual dimorphism in hat pelves

Sergejs Berdnikovs, M. Bernstein, A. Metzler, R. Z. German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The mammalian pelvis is sexually dimorphic with respect to both size and shape. Yet little is known about the differences in postnatal growth and bone remodeling that generate adult sexual dimorphism in pelvic bones. We used Sprague-Dawley laboratory rats (Rattus norvegicus), a species that exhibits gross pelvic size and shape dimorphism, as a model to quantify pelvic morphology throughout ontogeny. We employed landmark-based geometric morphometrics methodology on digitized landmarks from radiographs to test for sexual dimorphism in size and shape, and to examine differences in the rates, magnitudes, and directional patterns of shape change during growth. On the basis of statistical significance testing, the sexes became different with respect to pelvic shape by 36 days of age, earlier than the onset of size dimorphism (45 days), although visible shape differences were observed as early as at 22 days. Males achieved larger pelvic sizes by growing faster throughout ontogeny. However, the rates of shape change in the pelvis were greater in females for nearly all time intervals scrutinized. We found that trajectories of shape change were parallel in the two sexes until age of 45 days, suggesting that both sexes underwent similar bone remodeling until puberty. After 45 days, but before reproductive maturity, shape change trajectories diverged because of specific changes in the female pelvic shape, possibly due to the influence of estrogens. Pattern of male pelvic bone remodeling remained the same throughout ontogeny, suggesting that androgen effects on male pelvic morphology were constant and did not contribute to specific shape changes at puberty. These results could be used to direct additional research on the mechanisms that generate skeletal dimorphisms at different levels of biological organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007



  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Growth
  • Pelvis
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Shape change
  • Size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Anatomy

Cite this

Berdnikovs, S., Bernstein, M., Metzler, A., & German, R. Z. (2007). Pelvic growth: Ontogeny of size and shape sexual dimorphism in hat pelves. Journal of Morphology, 268(1), 12-22.