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Combining geometric morphometrics and functional simulation: an emerging toolkit for virtual functional analyses

O�Higgins, Paul; Groening, Flora; O'Higgins, Paul; Cobb, Samuel N.; Fitton, Laura C.; Gröning, Flora; Phillips, Roger; Liu, Jia; Fagan, Michael J.


Paul O�Higgins

Flora Groening

Paul O'Higgins

Samuel N. Cobb

Laura C. Fitton

Flora Gröning

Roger Phillips

Jia Liu

Michael J. Fagan


The development of virtual methods for anatomical reconstruction and functional simulation of skeletal structures offers great promise in evolutionary and ontogenetic investigations of form-function relationships. Key developments reviewed here include geometric morphometric methods for the analysis and visualization of variations in form (size and shape), finite element methods for the prediction of mechanical performance of skeletal structures under load and multibody dynamics methods for the simulation and prediction of musculoskeletal function. These techniques are all used in studies of form and function in biology, but only recently have they been combined in novel ways to facilitate biomechanical modelling that takes account of variations in form, can statistically compare performance, and relate performance to form and its covariates. Here we provide several examples that illustrate how these approaches can be combined and we highlight areas that require further investigation and development before we can claim a mature theory and toolkit for a statistical biomechanical framework that unites these methods.


O'Higgins, P., Cobb, S. N., Fitton, L. C., Gröning, F., Phillips, R., Liu, J., & Fagan, M. J. (2011). Combining geometric morphometrics and functional simulation: an emerging toolkit for virtual functional analyses. Journal of anatomy, 218(1), 3-15.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 19, 2010
Online Publication Date Sep 29, 2010
Publication Date 2011-01
Print ISSN 0021-8782
Electronic ISSN 1469-7580
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 218
Issue 1
Pages 3-15
Keywords Biomechanics; Finite element analysis; Geometric morphometrics; Multibody dynamics analysis
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