Birth, obstetrics and human evolution

  title={Birth, obstetrics and human evolution},
  author={Karen R. Rosenberg and Wenda R. Trevathan},
  journal={BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics \& Gynaecology},
There are several characteristics that set our species apart from other mammals. We are the only living or extant mammal that habitually walks on two legs. For our body size, we have the largest and the most complex brains of all animals. Humans depend on material culture or ‘tools’ for their survival. Humans universally communicate with each other through abstract symbols known as language. Finally, human females routinely seek assistance when they give birth. In fact, many have argued that… 
Mechanism of birth in chimpanzees: humans are not unique among primates
The mechanism of birth in chimpanzees is reported based on the first clear, close-up video recordings of three chimpanzee births in captivity, and in all three cases, the foetus emerged with an occiput anterior orientation, and the head and body rotated after the head had emerged.
Evolutionary obstetrics
Worldwide it is rare for women to give birth alone, but Western medical perspectives on childbirth view it as sufficiently risky that it must take place in a clinical setting.
Metabolic hypothesis for human altriciality
Evidence is presented that challenges the importance of pelvic morphology and mechanics in the evolution of human gestation and altriciality and suggests that limits to maternal metabolism are the primary constraints on human gestation length and fetal growth.
Challenges to human uniqueness: bipedalism, birth and brains
This review paper highlights several recent challenges to key features that have been considered to be exclusive to hominins, testing three long-standing theories in evolutionary anthropology.
Primate pelvic anatomy and implications for birth
  • W. Trevathan
  • Medicine, Psychology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2015
Recently reported observations of births in monkeys and apes are used to compare the process in human and non-human primates, highlighting similarities and differences.
The Role of Neoteny in Human Evolution: From Genes to the Phenotype
Recent advances in this field are described, which imply a molecular link between the evolution of two seemingly independent human-specific features: cognitive abilities and longevity.
Early brain growth in Homo erectus and implications for cognitive ability
An analysis of the 1.8-million-year-old Mojokerto child (Perning 1, Java), the only well preserved skull of a Homo erectus infant, by computed tomography indicates that this individual was about 1 yr (0–1.5”yr) old at death and had an endocranial capacity at 72–84% of an average adult H. erectus.
The obstetric dilemma: an ancient game of Russian roulette, or a variable dilemma sensitive to ecology?
The nature of the human obstetric dilemma is re-evaluate using updated hominin and primate literature, and the contribution of phenotypic plasticity to variability in its magnitude is considered.
The Evolution of Human Brain Development
It is argued here that an understanding of the tempo and mode of brain development can help to interpret the evolution of the authors' brain and the associated cognitive and behavioral changes.
Reconstructing birth in Australopithecus sediba
Evidence is found to support the hypothesis that the pelvic morphology of Australopithecus sediba is a result of locomotor, rather than strictly obstetric constraints, and to reconstruct the birth process in this early hominin.


Encephalization and Obstetrics in Primates with Particular Reference to Human Evolution
Evidence of differences between primate species in the growth rate of the brain and/or in the length of development during ontogeny suggests that encephalization of adults cannot be expected to be proportionate to that of the neonate or of individuals at any particular developmental stage.
Language and Modern Human Origins
There appears to be archaeological and paleontological evidence for complex language capabil- ities beginning much earlier, with the evolution of the genus Homo.
The Functional Significance of Neandertal Pubic Length [and Comments and Reply]
Although individual Neandertals fall outside the modern range of variation for pubic length, weight, and relative weight, the relationship among these variables is the same as in modern humans, providing support for the notion of morphological nd behavioral continuity between these human groups.
Evolution of Human Walking
Neither a unique brain nor stone tools are in evidence among the authors' earliest known ancestors, the austra­ lopithecines of three million years ago and more, yet these same ancestors do clearly show many of the hallmarks of bipedal walking.
Birth as an American rite of passage
Robbie Davis-Floyd argues that hospital birth is a rite of passage that reflects and transmits the authors' cultural belief in the superiority of science over nature, machines over bodies, men over women, institutions over individuals and that these obstetrical procedures are rituals that enact the core values of American society.
Primate Brain Evolution: Methods and Concepts
This book discusses the evolution of the Brain in Primates through the Use of Comparative Neurophysiological and Neuroanatomical Data, allometry, Brain Size, Cortical Surface, and Convolutedness, and the Relativity of Relative Brain Measures.
Demography of the Dobe! Kung
First published in 1979, this is a classic study of the population of the Bushmen of the Kalahari Deselt of Botswana. Using methods that are simple and fully illustrated, the author presents
AL 288-1--Lucy or Lucifer: gender confusion in the Pliocene.
This study evaluates the pelvic anatomy and probable sex of AL 288-1 by both assessing the obstetric adequacy of its pelvis and critically reviewing Häusler & Schmid's (1995, 1997) analyses of australopithecine pelvic dimorphism and relative body size.