Skeletal Functional Morpholgy - SE8013

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
7 15 (7.5)







The skeletons of living primates are adapted to the functional requirements of locomotor and manipulative behaviours that allow them to successfully navigate their environments. Similarly, the behaviour of extinct primates, including fossil human ancestors, can be reconstructed through comparisons to living species in concert with the biomechanical principles influencing skeletal morphology. In this module, students will learn detailed aspects of bone biology that relate to function and participate in a comparative analysis of skeletal morphology among major primate clades. This knowledge will then be applied to assessments of skeletal functional morphology in fossil human ancestors relating to both locomotion and manipulative behaviours. Module material will be reinforced through a project report interpreting a 'mystery' fossil and an in-class practical exam.


This module appears in:

Contact hours




Method of assessment

4000 word project report, 80%
Seminar leadership, 20%

Indicative reading

Aiello, L and Dean, C (1990) An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy. Academic Press, pp.596.
Biewener AA (1989) Scaling body support in mammals: limb posture and muscle mechanics. Science 245: 45-48.
Curry, J (1984) The Mechanical Adaptations of Bone. Princeton University Press, pp. 294
Jungers WL, Grabowski M, Hatala KG, Richmond BG (2016) The evolution of body size and shape in the human career. Phil Trans R Soc B 371:20150247.
Marzke MW (1997) Precision grips, hand morphology, and tools. Am J Phys Anthropol 102: 91-110.
Ward CV (2002) Interpreting the posture and locomotion of Australopithecus afarensis: Where do we stand? Yrbk Phys Anthropol. 45: 185-215.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of bone biology and physiology as it relates to function.
2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the biomechanical principles that influence skeletal morphology.
3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to summarise major anatomical differences between skeletons of different primate clades.
4. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of how anatomists reconstruct locomotor and manipulative behaviour from the skeleton.
5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to critically evaluate scientific papers and contribute to academic discussions and debates.
6. Demonstrate advanced critical reasoning and writing skills.
7. Demonstrate advanced presentation skills.
8. Demonstrate advanced interpersonal skills such as the ability to discuss critically and debate topics with peers
9. Demonstrate advanced learning and study skills as a result of independent scholarly research into particular topics.

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