Epigenetics and variation: an African American skeletal sample
In the past several decades, interest in skeletal epigenetic traits has waned, with the last major study taking place in 2001. Researchers have yet to establish a consensus of the nature of these traits or the mechanisms behind them. This research reassesses the claims of previous studies: that these traits are inherited and consistent across populations, and that age and sex do not affect the expression of these traits. To test these claims, frequency data was collected for 43 cranial epigenetic traits across 174 African American crania of the Hamman-Todd skeletal series. Chi-square and Fisher's Exact tests were utilized to determine if any statistically significant trait frequency differences appeared between males and females, those below and above the age of 40, and individuals born in northern and southern U.S. states, as well as those born outside of the United States. The results are unable support any claims about age or sex differences present in cranial epigenetic traits, but lends some support that the frequency of traits is consistent across a given population. Further research must take a biocultural approach to investigate potential biochemical, skeletal, and environmental factors behind cranial epigenetic traits in order to establish a more accurate understanding of the nature of these traits.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Anthropology