Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationBoston U.
Grant numberGr. 9415
Approve DateApril 18, 2017
Project TitleLaudicina, Natalie M., Boston U., Boston, MA - To aid research on 'Examining the Evolution of Human Birth: A Novel Approach,' supervised by Dr. Matt Cartmill
NATALIE M. LAUDICINA, then a graduate student at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetss, was awarded a grant in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Examining the Evolution of Human Birth: A Novel Approach,’ supervised by Dr. Matt Cartmill. For decades, the mechanics of human birth were thought to be unique amongst primates. It is not clear why and how the process of human labor became so complex and perilous. The widely accepted ‘obstetrical dilemma’ account attributes this to a combination of large neonatal size, a uniquely large neonatal brain, and a maternal pelvis that has become modified for bipedal locomotion by growing dorsoventrally shallower and transversely broader. This research compared obstetric constraints amongst a variety of anthropoid primates and fossil hominins, creating a novel technique using 3D surface scans, animation software, and complete birth canal reconstruction. Funding allowed the grantee to travel to six institutions to scan over 200 primate specimens. Comparing fetal dimensions to the birth canal morphology and size, the research examined species-specific obstetric constraints to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the degree of birth difficulty in non-human primates. From this research, findings showed that some non-human primate species have cephalopelvic ratios that are equally as tight as a human’s.