Natalie Laudicina

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Boston U.

Grant number

Gr. 9415

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Laudicina, Natalie M., Boston U., Boston, MA - To aid research on 'Examining the Evolution of Human Birth: A Novel Approach,' supervised by Dr. Matt Cartmill

Preliminary abstract: Human birth is the most difficult of all the primates. This is in-part due to the large, encephalized neonate traversing through a constrained maternal pelvis adapted to bipedality. A result of this complex birth is that humans are unique amongst primates in requiring birth assistance. When this difficult birth arose in the hominin lineage is unknown. Past research has limited the examination of hominin birth to three distinct birth canal planes: the inlet, midplane, and outlet. In this proposal, I present a novel technique that expands the analysis of birth mechanics to examine the transitional birth canal morphology between these three planes. I will accomplish this through a methodology that includes three-dimensional modeling and quantification of the birth canal in its entirety. Species-specific neonatal head and shoulder dimensions will be animated traversing the reconstructed birth canals to determine the most probable birth mechanism. My pilot research on the transitional morphology between the birth canal planes show shifting anatomy in at least one fossil hominin. My research has also indicated that hominin’s broad shoulders occur earlier in the fossil record than neonatal encephalization. Both of these aspects warrant further research into the birth mechanisms of early hominins. My research will focus on these neglected aspects of maternal and neonatal morphology to produce a more comprehensive analysis of the hominin birth process. This in turn will lead to increased knowledge to inform upon modern birth practices to combat extant risks such as shoulder dystocia.