Philipp Mitteroecker

Philipp Mitteroecker
University of Vienna | UniWien · Department of Evolutionary Biology

PhD

About

153
Publications
93,749
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7,854
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Introduction
I am a theoretical biologist with interests in human and animal evolution, evolutionary medicine, biological anthropology, statistics, and the philosophy of science. I am fascinated by the analysis of complex biological data, including morphological, behavioral, and genetic data. I have contributed to modern morphometrics, the statistical analysis of biological form, as well as to multivariate biostatistics and quantitative genetics. I have studied the development and evolution of human and primate anatomy, with medical applications to orthodontics. Another current research focus is on the evolution of human childbirth.
Additional affiliations
March 2016 - present
University of Vienna
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
January 2009 - March 2016
University of Vienna
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
January 2009 - present
Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Position
  • Lecturer

Publications

Publications (153)
Article
Full-text available
Sociocultural transitions and medical advancements can disrupt evolutionary equilibriums underlying modern human anatomy, physiology and life history. Disentangling such complex biosocial evolutionary dynamics poses serious ethical questions but has strong potential for guiding public health policies.
Article
Full-text available
It is a classic aim of quantitative and evolutionary biology to infer genetic architecture and potential evolutionary responses to selection from the variance-covariance structure of measured traits. But a meaningful genetic or developmental interpretation of raw covariances is difficult, and classic concepts of morphological integration do not dir...
Article
Full-text available
Phylogenetic reconstruction based on morphometric data is hampered by homoplasies. For example, many similarities in cranial form between primate taxa more strongly reflect ecological similarities rather than phylogenetic relatedness. However, the way in which the different cranial bones constitute cranial form is, if at all, of less functional rel...
Article
Full-text available
Developmental mechanisms that canalize or compensate perturbations of organismal development (targeted or compensatory growth) are widely considered a prerequisite of individual health and the evolution of complex life, but little is known about the nature of these mechanisms. It is even unclear if and how a “target trajectory” of individual develo...
Article
Full-text available
Background The human foetus typically needs to rotate when passing through the tight birth canal because of the complex shape of the pelvis. In most women, the upper part, or inlet, of the birth canal has a round or mediolaterally oval shape, which is considered ideal for parturition, but it is unknown why the lower part of the birth canal has a pr...
Article
Full-text available
The foundations of geometric morphometrics were worked out about 30 years ago and have continually been refined and extended. What has remained as a central thrust and source of debate in the morphometrics community is the shared goal of meaningful biological inference through a tight connection between biological theory, measurement, multivariate...
Article
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The origin and key details of the making of the ~ 30,000 year old Venus from Willendorf remained a secret since its discovery for more than a hundred years. Based on new micro-computed tomography scans with a resolution of 11.5 µm, our analyses can explain the origin as well as the choice of material and particular surface features. It allowed the...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Parturition scars have been frequently studied in the last decades, but their association with pregnancy and birth is still controversial. Other biomechanical, biometric and lifestyle factors are also likely to influence the development of pelvic features. Most previous studies of pelvic features were based on skeletal collections with n...
Article
Full-text available
The human pelvis has been reported to change in shape throughout adult lifetime, and also the expression of parturition scars, or "pelvic features", increases with age. However, little is known about the causes and timing of these changes. Here we investigate changes in pelvic shape and the expression of pelvic features by applying a comprehensive...
Preprint
Full-text available
The human foetus needs to rotate when passing through the tight birth canal because of the complex shape of the pelvis. In most women the upper part, or inlet, of the birth canal has a round or mediolaterally oval shape, which is considered ideal for parturition, but it is unknown why the lower part, or outlet, of the birth canal has a pronounced a...
Article
Full-text available
It is commonly assumed that the strong sexual dimorphism of the human pelvis evolved for delivering the relatively large human foetuses. Here we compare pelvic sex differences across modern humans and chimpanzees using a comprehensive geometric morphometric approach. Even though the magnitude of sex differences in pelvis shape was two times larger...
Article
Full-text available
Compared with most other primates, humans are characterized by a tight fit between the maternal birth canal and the fetal head, leading to a relatively high risk of neonatal and maternal mortality and morbidities. Obstetric selection is thought to favor a spacious birth canal, whereas the source for opposing selection is frequently assumed to relat...
Article
Full-text available
As our human ancestors migrated into Eurasia, they faced a considerably harsher climate, but the extent to which human cranial morphology has adapted to this climate is still debated. In particular, it remains unclear when such facial adaptations arose in human populations. Here, we explore climate-associated features of face shape in a worldwide m...
Article
Full-text available
The presence of multiple Australopithecus species at Sterkfontein Member 4, South Africa (2.07 to 2.61 Ma) is highly contentious. Quantitative assessments of craniodental and postcranial variability remain inconclusive. Using geometric morphometrics, we compared the sacrum of the small-bodied, presumed female subadult Australopithecus africanus ske...
Conference Paper
In paleontology, reconstructing the phylogeny of extinct taxa is of paramount importance. Most frequently, because genetic data is generally not available, phylogenetic affinities of fossils are inferred from anatomical features. However, phylogenetic inferences based on morphological traits is often blurred by the adaptive signal. We propose a nov...
Article
Full-text available
Pelvic dimensions differ, on average, among modern human populations. Some recent studies reported that population differences in pelvic form evolved mainly by neutral processes, without considerable natural selection. This is a surprising claim given the many important functions of the human pelvis. Here, we reevaluate this claim by reviewing the...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Three‐dimensional (3D) data collected by structured light scanners, photogrammetry, and computed tomography (CT) scans are increasingly combined in joint analyses, even though the scanning techniques and reconstruction software differ considerably. The aim of the present study was to compare the quality and accuracy of surface models and...
Preprint
Full-text available
When our human ancestors migrated out of Africa, they faced a considerably harsher climate, but the extent to which human cranial morphology has adapted to climate is still debated. In particular, it remains unclear when such facial adaptations arose in human populations. Here, we explore climate-associated features of face shape in a worldwide mod...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Pelvic features, mostly known as parturition scars, have been extensively studied in the last decades and are frequently investigated in archaeological and forensic contexts. It is still unclear, however, whether they really relate to pregnancy and birth, or whether these features are caused by other biomechanical factors. Because the le...
Code
Compute bending energies, principal warps, partial warp scores, and the non-affine component of shape variation for 2D landmark configurations, as well as Mardia-Dryden distributions and self-similar distributions of landmarks, as described in Mitteroecker et al. (2020) <doi:10.1093/sysbio/syaa007>. Working examples to decompose shape variation int...
Preprint
Full-text available
Developmental mechanisms that canalize or compensate perturbations of organismal development (targeted or compensatory growth) are widely considered a prerequisite of individual health and the evolution of complex life, but little is known about the nature of these mechanisms. It is even unclear if and how a “target trajectory” of individual develo...
Preprint
Full-text available
The presence of multiple Australopithecus species at Sterkfontein Member 4, South Africa (2.07 to 2.61 Ma) is highly contentious. Quantitative assessments of craniodental and postcranial variability remain inconclusive. Using geometric morphometrics, we compared the sacrum of the small-bodied, presumed female subadult Australopithecus africanus ske...
Article
Full-text available
Encapsulated within the temporal bone and comprising the smallest elements of the vertebrate skeleton, the ear is key to multiple senses: balance, posture control, gaze stabilization, and hearing. The transformation of the primary jaw joint into the mammalian ear ossicles is one of the most iconic transitions in vertebrate evolution, but the driver...
Article
Full-text available
Brain lateralization is commonly interpreted as crucial for human brain function and cognition. However, as comparative studies among primates are rare, it is not known which aspects of lateralization are really uniquely human. Here, we quantify both pattern and magnitude of brain shape asymmetry based on endocranial imprints of the braincase in hu...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Morphological comparisons across populations are widely used to reconstruct human evolutionary history. Intra-population variation is the target of selection; however most studies only focus on average between-group differences, neglecting differences in covariation patterns within groups. Relative PCA is a method that identifies multivariate trait...
Article
Full-text available
1.Comparisons of pattern and magnitude of phenotypic variation are central to many studies in evolution and ecology, but a meaningful comparison of multivariate variance patterns can be challenging. Here we review an effective exploratory strategy, relative principal component analysis (relative PCA), for the comparison of variance‐covariance matri...
Code
vcvComp is an R package to perform comparison of variance - covariance patterns using relative principal component analysis (relative eigenanalysis). Also provides functions to compute group covariance matrices, distance matrices, and perform proportionality tests. A working sample on the body shape of cichlid fishes is included.
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Despite variation in lifestyle and environment, first signs of human facial aging show between the ages of 20–30 years. It is a cumulative process of changes in the skin, soft tissue, and skeleton of the face. As quantifications of facial aging in living humans are still scarce, we set out to study age‐related changes in three‐dimensiona...
Article
Without cesarean delivery, obstructed labor due to a disproportion of the fetus and the maternal birth canal can result in maternal and fetal injuries or even death. The precise frequency of obstructed labor is difficult to estimate because of the widespread use of cesarean delivery for indications other than proven cephalopelvic disproportion, but...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
It is well known that cranial shape undergoes extensive changes throughout development in vertebrates. However, to what extent the individual cranial bones contribute to ontogenetic variation in overall cranial shape has scarcely been explored. We used a novel approach to analyzing large-scale, i.e. global, and small-scale, i.e. local, ontogenetic...
Data
Photographs of articulated bony pelves of representatives of all major mammalian (marsupial and placental) groups. Sexual dimorphism (or the lack thereof) can also be observed by comparing male and female specimens.
Article
Full-text available
Objectives The narrow human birth canal evolved in response to multiple opposing selective forces on the pelvis. These factors cannot be sufficiently disentangled in humans because of the limited range of relevant variation. Here, we outline a comparative strategy to study the evolution of human childbirth and to test existing hypotheses in primate...
Article
Full-text available
The massive global variation in caesarean-section (C-section) rate is usually attributed to socioeconomic , medical and cultural heterogeneity. Here, we show that a third of the global variance in current national C-section rate can be explained by the trends of adult body height from the 1970s to the 1990s. In many countries, living conditions hav...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Human facial morphology is highly diverse and determined both by genetic and environmental factors. Until now, the genetic basis of normal facial variation was explored by association studies between univariate or simple multivariate facial phenotypes (such as principal components of facial measurements) and a number of single nucleotide polymorphi...
Data
Table S2 Supporting information Table S2. The number of species by higher‐order taxon used to produce each Figure in the main text, including the data source.
Data
Table S1 Supporting information Table S1. Data on neonatal and female body mass for 284 mammalian species. Data for 266 species were taken from Tague (2016), and data for an additional twelve species (highlighted in yellow) were collated from the indicated sources. When no reference is given, data are from Tague (2016).
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The narrow human birth canal evolved in response to multiple opposing selective forces on the pelvis. These factors cannot be sufficiently disentangled in humans because of the limited range of relevant variation. We outline a comparative strategy to study the evolution of human childbirth and to test existing hypotheses in primates and other mamma...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The primate head consists of different functional units, such as the braincase, the orbits, and the jaws, which are adapted to their specific function in the species' ecological environment. Because of these adaptive histories, overall cranial shape does not reliably reflect phylogeny. However, the relative extent to which different cranial bones r...
Article
Full-text available
Free online view at https://rdcu.be/KMNX Members of the mammalian families Elephantidae and Hippopotamidae (extant and extinct elephants and hippos) include extinct dwarf species that display up to 98% decrease in body size compared to probable ancestral sources. In addition to differences in body mass, skulls of these species consistently display...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The primate head consists of different functional units, such as the braincase, the orbits, and the jaws, which are adapted to their specific function in the species' ecological environment. Because of these adaptive histories, overall cranial shape does not reliably reflect phylogeny. However, the relative extent to which different cranial bones r...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: To infer the ecogeographic conditions that underlie the evolutionary diversification of macaques, we investigated the within- and between-species relationships of craniodental dimensions, geography, and environment in extant macaque species. We studied evolutionary processes by contrasting macroevolutionary patterns, phylogeny, and wit...
Article
Full-text available
Recently, we presented the cliff-edge model to explain the evolutionary persistence of relatively high incidences of fetopelvic disproportion (FPD) in human childbirth. According to this model, the regular application of Caesarean sections since the mid-20th century has triggered an evolutionary increase of fetal size relative to the dimensions of...
Article
Full-text available
The chin prominence is a hallmark of the modern human face and bears on its labial surface an inverted-T bony relief. Evolutionarily, whether the human chin is an adaptation for mastication or speech is debated but there is little compelling data supporting either claim. Furthermore, some suggest that the inverted-T relief is more important for phy...
Article
In der vorliegenden Studie wurde ein selbstligierender mit einem konventionellen Brackettyp auf die Effektivität der Zahnbewegung während der Nivellierungsphase verglichen. Dabei wurden beide Brackettypen simultan verwendet, nämlich zufällig in der linken und rechten Gebisshälfte. 21 Patienten (4 männliche und 17 weibliche) im Alter von 11 bis 36 J...
Article
Full-text available
Sexual dimorphism in the human pelvis has evolved in response to several jointly acting selection regimes that result from the pelvis? multiple roles in locomotion and childbirth, among others. Because human males are, on average, taller than females, some aspects of sexual dimorphism in pelvis shape might result from allometry, the association bet...
Article
Development translates genetic variation into a multivariate pattern of phenotypic variation, distributing it among traits in a nonuniform manner. As developmental processes are largely shared within species, this suggests that heritable phenotypic variation will be patterned similarly, in spite of the different segregating alleles. To investigate...
Article
Full-text available
Facial markers of body composition are frequently studied in evolutionary psychology and are important in computational and forensic face recognition. We assessed the association of body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) with facial shape and texture (color pattern) in a sample of young Middle European women by a combination of geometri...
Article
Full-text available
The strikingly high incidence of obstructed labor due to the dis-proportion of fetal size and the mother's pelvic dimensions has puzzled evolutionary scientists for decades. Here we propose that these high rates are a direct consequence of the distinct characteristics of human obstetric selection. Neonatal size relative to the birth-relevant matern...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this study was to compare mandibular form (i.e., size and shape) between patients with agenesis of the lower second premolar (P2) and a control group with no agenesis. Three hypotheses were tested: (H1) agenesis causes a change in mandibular morphology because of inadequate alveolar ridge development in the area of the missing tooth (man...
Article
Full-text available
Background: To evaluate the role of craniofacial shape in malocclusion by application of geometric morphometrics to a set of two-dimensional landmarks and semilandmarks obtained from lateral skull radiographs. Methods: Cephalometric radiograph tracings of 88 untreated Caucasians (age range 7-39 years) were assigned to four groups according to th...
Article
Full-text available
In their interesting article, Huseynov et al. (1) propose the “developmental obstetric dilemma (DOD) hypothesis,” which posits that human pelvic morphology reflects the changing obstetric needs during a female’s lifetime. In particular, the authors state that the female pelvis reaches its “obstetrically most adequate morphology” during peak fertili...
Article
Developmental stability and canalization describe the ability of developmental systems to minimize phenotypic variation in the face of stochastic micro-environmental effects, genetic variation and environmental influences. Canalization is the ability to minimize the effects of genetic or environmental effects, while developmental stability is the a...
Article
Full-text available
With the advent of modern imaging and measurement technology, complex phenotypes are increasingly represented by large numbers of measurements, which may not bear biological meaning one by one. For such multivariate phenotypes, studying the pairwise associations between all measurements and all alleles is highly inefficient and prevents insight into...
Article
Full-text available
In our paper (1) we report on a previously unknown association between human pelvis shape, head size, and stature that appears to ameliorate—but in no way resolve—the obstetric dilemma. In an interesting response to this article, Underdown and Oppenheimer (2) emphasize that “one must explicitly consider whether the suggested relationship is an evol...
Article
Full-text available
Compared with other primates, childbirth is remarkably difficult in humans because the head of a human neonate is large relative to the birth-relevant dimensions of the maternal pelvis. It seems puzzling that females have not evolved wider pelvises despite the high maternal mortality and morbidity risk connected to childbirth. Despite this seeming...