Relative variation in human proximal and distal limb segment lengths

Trenton W. Holliday, Christopher B. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The pattern of variation and covariation of proximal and distal limb segment lengths was examined within and between 20 geographically diverse skeletal samples of modern humans. Analyses of variance-covariance matrices (VCMs) of logarithmically transformed (ln) variates of humerus, radius, femur, and tibia length were performed to test the following hypotheses; first, within populations, the distal and proximal segments will have equal relative (i.e., size-independent) variability. However, between populations, the tibia is predicted to be more variable than the other segments. Tests of fit of computed VCMs to theoretical matrices by an iterative procedure (Anderson [1973] Ann. Stat. 1:135-141) reject the equal variance hypotheses, rather suggesting that the relative variances of the distal limb segments are greater than are those of the proximal. Males and females differ somewhat in that within females, the distal segments of both limbs have equal variance, while within males, the tibia has greater relative variance than the radius. The second hypothesis, regarding between-group variability, is somewhat supported in that between human populations, one cannot reject that the tibia has greater relative variance than the other limb segments. However, neither can one reject an alternative hypothesis that both distal limb segments (tibia and radius) are more variable than the proximal segments. Differential growth allometry is explored, and likely plays a major role in differences seen both within and between human populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-33
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 18 2001


  • Allometry
  • Limb proportions
  • Variance-covariance matrices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Relative variation in human proximal and distal limb segment lengths'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this