Online primate anatomy lab exercise

I work at a very freshly opened University in Kazakhstan, a school so young that we will not graduate our first class for another year. I came here for the exciting prospects of helping establish an anthropology program, but there are lots of challenges, too. One of the biggest I face as an educator is that infrastructure and other physical materials are still in the process of coming together. Simply put: we don’t got no bones! This is especially troublesome when teaching human evolution, an anatomy-oriented class in which students really can benefit from examining physical bones and casts of fossils first-hand.

So until we get our badass laboratory of anthropological sciences, I’ve put together a lab activity using the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute’s online database of CT scans (blogged about before here and here). The purpose of this activity is to show students ‘virtual’ primate skeletons that they can examine, look inside, and even measure. The KUPRI CT viewers allow students to identify structures, rotate and orient the skeletons, and measure using a handy grid function. While I love this resource, I’ll admit that the program can be a bit unwieldy, and so it takes some time to figure out how to use well.

Measure that gibbon radius!

Measure that gibbon radius!

In this exercise, students will measure cranial width, femur head diameter, and maximum length of the humerus, radius, femur, and tibia. Cranium width is then used to estimate cranial capacity (based on chimps, from Neubauer et al., 2012); femur head diameter allows estimation of body mass (using anthropoid regressions from Ruff, 2003); and the limb dimensions are used to calculate various indices. The class as a whole will look at apes and monkeys, for comparison with published values for other species. Then we’ll gather ’round the campfire to talk about our feelings about it. I’m hoping it will get them familiar with the basic anatomy and names of bones, some experience collecting data, and some understanding of variation between different species.

Best of all, each student will write up their ‘analysis’ on the NU Bioanthro Student blog next week. Stay tuned to see their results!

So, I’m attaching the exercise to this post – feel free to use or modify. If you have any other similar exercises, the rest of the internet and I would be happy to hear about them

Download me: Primate CT lab! [updated 06 Feburary, to fix issues with brain and body size estimation equations in previous version]


One more great bioanthro resource

Following up on yesterday’s post containing links to various online data and resources, Dr. Rebecca Jabbour brought the Human Origins Database to my attention today. As stated on the database’s home page:

Currently the Human Origins Database contains the measurements and skeletal element information present in the Koobi Fora Research Project. Volume 4: Hominid Cranial Remains by Bernard Wood (1991). In addition, a complete inventory of skeletal elements present for the chimpanzee and gorilla collections at the Powell-Cotton Museum is included, along with annotated data sheets providing information on epiphyseal fusion, element condition, etc.

Here’s a taste of the Powell-Cotton chimpanzee catalog & maturation info:

You have to register to access the database – which you should do since it’s free and appears immensely useful. Enjoy!