Variability and the form-function framework in evolutionary biomechanics and human locomotion




Murray, Alison A.

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Evolutionary Human Sciences


The form–function conceptual framework, which assumes a strong relationship between the structure of a particular trait and its function, has been crucial for understanding morphological variation and locomotion among extant and fossil species across many disciplines. In biological anthropology, it is the lens through which many important questions and hypotheses have been tackled with respect to relationships between morphology and locomotor kinematics, energetics and performance. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that the morphologies of fossil hominins, apes and humans can confer considerable locomotor diversity and flexibility, and can do so with a range of kinematics depending on soft tissue plasticity and environmental and cultural factors. This complexity is not built into traditional biomechanical or mathematical models of relationships between structure and kinematics or energetics, limiting our interpretation of what bone structure is telling us about behaviour in the past. The nine papers presented in this Special Collection together address some of the challenges that variation in the relationship between form and function pose in evolutionary biomechanics, to better characterise the complexity linking structure and function and to provide tools through which we may begin to incorporate some of this complexity into our functional interpretations.



Biomechanics, human evolution, bipedalism, kinematics, functional morphology


Murray, A. A. (2022). “Variability and the form-function framework in evolutionary biomechanics and human locomotion.” Evolutionary Human Sciences, 4, E29.