Heterochronic processes in human evolution: an ontogenetic analysis of the hominid pelvis.
Changes in pelvic shape in human ontogeny and hominid phylogeny suggest that the heterochronic processes involved differ greatly from the neotenic process traditionally described in the evolution of the skull. The morphology of 150 juvenile and adult pelves of African apes, 60 juvenile and adult pelves of modern humans, two adult pelves and a juvenile hip bone of australopithecines (Sts 14, AL 288, MLD 7) was studied. Multivariate results, ontogenetic allometries, and growth curves confirm that the pelvic growth pattern in humans differs markedly from those of the African apes. The results permit the following conclusions. First, the appearance of a new feature (acetabulo-cristal buttress and cristal tubercle) at the time of human birth allows the addition of traits, such as the attainment of a proportionally narrower pelvis, with more sagittally positioned iliac blades. Pelvic proportions and orientation change progressively in early childhood as bipedalism is practiced. Other changes in pelvic proportions occur later with the adolescent growth spurt. Second, comparison of juvenile and adult australopithecines to modern humans indicates that 1) some pelvic traits of adult Australopithecus resemble those of neonate Homo; 2) the pelvic growth of Australopithecus was probably closer to that of apes, than to that of humans; and 3) prolonged growth in length of hindlimb and pelvis after sexual maturity seems to be a unique feature of Homo. The position of the acetabulo-cristal buttress and of the cristal tubercle on the ilium are similar in adult Australopithecus and neonate Homo suggesting that this feature may have been displaced later during hominid evolution. Progressive displacement of the acetabulo-cristal buttress on the ilium occurs both during hominid evolution (from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens) and human growth (from neonate to adult). This suggests peramorphic evolution of the pelvic morphology of hominids combining three processes of recapitulation (pre-displacement, acceleration and time hypermorphosis). The results lend credence to the hypothesis that no single heterochronic process accounts for all human evolutionary change; rather this reflects a combination of relative changes in growth rhythm and duration, including other perturbations, such as the appearance of new morphological features.