Hunter-gatherer postcranial robusticity relative to patterns of mobility, climatic adaptation, and selection for tissue economy.
Human skeletal robusticity is influenced by a number of factors, including habitual behavior, climate, and physique. Conflicting evidence as to the relative importance of these factors complicates our ability to interpret variation in robusticity in the past. It remains unclear how the pattern of robusticity in the skeleton relates to adaptive constraints on skeletal morphology. This study investigates variation in robusticity in claviculae, humeri, ulnae, femora, and tibiae among human foragers, relative to climate and habitual behavior. Cross-sectional geometric properties of the diaphyses are compared among hunter-gatherers from southern Africa (n = 83), the Andaman Islands (n = 32), Tierra del Fuego (n = 34), and the Great Lakes region (n = 15). The robusticity of both proximal and distal limb segments correlates negatively with climate and positively with patterns of terrestrial and marine mobility among these groups. However, the relative correspondence between robusticity and these factors varies throughout the body. In the lower limb, partial correlations between polar second moment of area (J(0.73)) and climate decrease from proximal to distal section locations, while this relationship increases from proximal to distal in the upper limb. Patterns of correlation between robusticity and mobility, either terrestrial or marine, generally increase from proximal to distal in the lower and upper limbs, respectively. This suggests that there may be a stronger relationship between observed patterns of diaphyseal hypertrophy and behavioral differences between populations in distal elements. Despite this trend, strength circularity indices at the femoral midshaft show the strongest correspondence with terrestrial mobility, particularly among males.