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Mitteroecker, P., Schaefer, K., Thirty years of geometric morphometrics: Achievements, challenges, and the ongoing quest for biological meaningfulness. American Journal of Biological Anthropology n/a.
The foundations of geometric morphometrics were worked out about 30 years ago and have continually been refined and extended. What has remained as a central thrust and source of debate in the morphometrics community is the shared goal of meaningful biological inference through a tight connection between biological theory, measurement, multivariate biostatistics, and geometry. Here we review the building blocks of modern geometric morphometrics: the representation of organismal geometry by landmarks and semilandmarks, the computation of shape or form variables via superimposition, the visualization of statistical results as actual shapes or forms, the decomposition of shape variation into symmetric and asymmetric components and into different spatial scales, the interpretation of various geometries in shape or form space, and models of the association between shape or form and other variables, such as environmental, genetic, or behavioral data. We focus on recent developments and current methodological challenges, especially those arising from the increasing number of landmarks and semilandmarks, and emphasize the importance of thorough exploratory multivariate analyses rather than single scalar summary statistics. We outline promising directions for further research and for the evaluation of new developments, such as “landmark-free” approaches. To illustrate these methods, we analyze three-dimensional human face shape based on data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).