A geometric morphometric analysis of contemporary Hispanic populations from Mexico and Colombia
MetadataShow full item record
In contexts such as natural disasters, humanitarian efforts, and other forensic investigations, the timely and accurate development of the biological profile (sex, age, ancestry, and stature of skeletonized remains) is vital to the identification of decedents. At present, the term “Hispanic” is a socio-linguistic classifier that includes all persons of South or Central American, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, or other Latino and Spanish-speaking persons into a single category; the term is also the current designator used by forensic anthropologists—in ancestry estimation—to identify anyone from a Latin American country. From a biological standpoint, the term is ineffective in describing these individuals because the human biological variation within and among different Hispanic populations cannot be encompassed by a single category. With regards to the development of the biological profile, ancestry estimations for these individuals are tenuous at best. This is due to the poor nature of the single reference sample used to create the current methods in ancestry and sex estimation—a common trend in forensic anthropology. The untested assumption that all Hispanic individuals are skeletally homogenous results in haphazard identifications and hinders effective forensic investigation. The primary objective of this research is to examine geometric morphometric variability in 547 documented individuals from three contemporaneous Latin American groups represented by Colombian, Mexican, and Migrant (U.S./Mexico border crossers) samples in order to ascertain whether it is possible to distinguish specific Hispanic populations. Using geometric morphometric (GM) analyses, the effects of shape-related variation independent of size can be implemented to isolate where on the cranium differences between groups are expressed. The results suggest that GM-derived population-specific criteria for Hispanic individuals possess the discriminatory power that is necessary towards improving the underdeveloped methods of identification for diverse Hispanic individuals living in the U.S. and abroad. Canonical variate analyses of the three samples separates the groups distinctly along both axes (CV1 and CV2). The morphological differences are predominantly seen in cranial height and sagittal vault shape, with Colombians having taller cranial vaults than the Mexican samples. The final results of this study demonstrate the utility that GM approaches have in forensic anthropology with respect to ancestry estimation and can be used to update various techniques required to develop the biological profile. Without constantly updating, refining, and re-validating the techniques, forensic anthropologists fail to provide the caliber of service required to approach the various forensic contexts.