Postcranial robusticity in Homo. II: Humeral bilateral asymmetry and bone plasticity

Erik Trinkaus, Steven E. Churchill, Christopher B. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Scopus citations


The analysis of humeral asymmetry in Recent human skeletal samples and an extant tennis‐player sample documents minimal asymmetry in bone length, little asymmetry in distal humeral articular breadth, but pronounced and variable asymmetry in mid‐ and distal diaphyseal crosssectional geometric parameters. More specifically, skeletal samples of normal modern Euroamericans, prehistoric and early historic Amerindians, and prehistoric Japanese show moderate (ca. 5–14%) median asymmetry in diaphyseal cross‐sectional areas and polar second moments of area, whereas the tennis‐player sample, with pronounced unilateral physical activity, exhibits median asymmetries of 28–57% in the same parameters. A sample of Neandertals with nonpathological upper limbs exhibits similarly low articular asymmetry but pronounced diaphyseal asymmetries, averaging 24–57%. In addition, three Neandertals with actual or possible post‐traumatic upper limb alterations have the same low articular asymmetry but extremely high diaphyseal asymmetries, averaging 112–215%. These data support those from experimental work on animals, exercise programs of humans, and human clinical contexts in establishing the high degree of diaphyseal plasticity possible for humans, past and present, under changing biomechanical loading conditions. This lends support to activity‐related functional interpretations of changing human diaphyseal morphology and robusticity during the Pleistocene. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994


  • Asymmetry
  • Bone Remodeling
  • Humerus
  • Neandertals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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