Pelvic Height and Iliac Flare

Certainty Style Key

Certainty styling is being phased out topic by topic.

Hover over keys for definitions:
True   Likely   Speculative
Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Absolute Difference
MOCA Topic Authors: 

The pelvis is a structure comprised of three articulating bones, the right and left hip bones (singular: os coxa; plural: ossa coxae) and the sacrum. These bones differ markedly from those of apes in a number of features. Relative to apes, humans have ossa coxae that are short superoinferiorly and wide mediolaterally, that have a marked curvature to the iliac blades (the upper portion of the hip bone), and that have a prominent angle between the ischium and ilium (the lower and upper portions of the hip bone, respectively). In addition, humans have a sacrum that is superoinferiorly short and mediolaterally broad compared to the sacra of apes. These morphological differences in the pelvis reflect differences in the habitual locomotor and postural repertoires of humans (orthograde posture and bipedal locomotion) and other apes (pronograde posture and quadrupedal locomotion). The reduced height of the human pelvis serves to bring the sacroliliac joint (the articulation between the sacrum and os coxa) closer to the hip joint, and thus to reduce bending forces on the portion of the ilium that transmits body weight from the vertebral column to the hip joint during bipedal standing and walking. The curvature of the iliac blades may serve dual functions: the convexity of the posterolateral surface orients the two smaller gluteal muscles (Mm. gluteus medius and minimus) such that they can operate as femoral abductors rather than extensors (this then allows these muscles to counteract the pull of gravity that would drop the opposite side hip when body weight is being supported on one leg during bipedal walking), and the concave anteromedial surface may provide some support of abdominal viscera (and also of the fetus, uterus and placenta in a pregnant female) during bipedal locomotion and stance. Finally, the greater angulation between the ilium and ischium allows humans to maintain an orthograde (upright) trunk without having to flex the hip joint, thus allowing us to balance body weight over one or both limbs with a minimum of muscular effort during standing and walking.


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Definite Appearance: 
3,000 thousand years ago
Background Information: 

Susman et al, 1984. Arboreality and Bipedality in the Hadar Hominids. Folia Primatol 43:113-156.
Ruff, 1995. Biomechanics of the hip and birth in early Homo. Am J Phys Anthropol 98:527-574.
Ruff, 1998. Evolution of the hominid hip. In: Strasser E, Rosenberger A, McHenry HM, and Fleagle JG, editors. Primate Locomotion: Recent Advances. Davis, CA: Plenum Press. p 449-469.
Lovejoy, 2005. The natural history of human gait and posture. Part 1. Spine and pelvis. Gait Posture 21:95-112.

Related MOCA Topics
Related Topics (hover over title for reason):
Referenced By:


No related publications have been added for this topic