New research study on the birth canal to be conducted

  • Monday, June 3, 2019

Dr Lia Betti, Senior Lecturer, and Dr Todd C. Rae, Reader, from the Department of Life Sciences have received £10,000 of funding to study the shape of the birth canal in different species of primates to determine why the size of the human birth canal appears to be relatively small compared to a human infant’s head.

Image - New research study on the birth canal to be conducted

This new research will look at various factors that may explain the tight fit between the foetus and the birth canal observed in humans and some other primates. These factors include how the primates move (whether they swing through the trees or travel on all fours) and their posture and spine alignment, as well as the relative size of the new born babies in various species of monkeys and apes.  

Dr Rae said “It’s been said that the size of the head of human offspring is comparatively larger than other groups of organisms. We are looking at a large number and diverse range of primates to see whether this is true and what factors may contribute to the variation.”

Dr Betti said “We will travel to Japan this June, to the Primate Research Institute of the University of Kyoto, to start collecting the CT scans with which we will create detailed images of body structures in various primates. We will also scan skeletal remains from the Natural History Museum in London and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent. We want to improve our understanding of the size and geometry of the birth canal across the primate group.”

From the scans of the primates, Dr Betti and Dr Rae will create 3D virtual skeletons using a process called segmenting to compare the body structures.

The research project is being funded for two years by the Sasakawa Foundation and the Primate Research Institute of the University of Kyoto.

The Department of Life Sciences offers an outstanding undergraduate course in BSc Anthropology.