The effect of vertebral numerical variation on anatomical stature estimates

Michelle H. Raxter, Christopher B. Ruff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Most humans possess 24 presacral vertebrae composed of seven cervicals, 12 thoracics, and five lumbars. However, variation from this standard pattern exists. The purpose of this study was to test the effect of congenital vertebral numerical variation on anatomical stature estimates and to recommend appropriate procedures when such variation occurs. Our sample consists of 41 individuals with unusual vertebral count patterns and known cadaveric statures from the Smithsonian's Terry Collection. Raxter et al. published a revised Fully anatomical technique in 2006 and we used this to estimate living stature. Based on our results, we recommend using the standard anatomical technique to reconstruct stature, regardless of vertebral pattern. However, when an individual possesses six sacral segments together with a normal number of presacral vertebrae, we recommend the addition of a slight correction factor of 1.3 cm or 0.8% of estimated stature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-466
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010


  • Anatomical method
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic science
  • Skeletal measurement
  • Stature estimation
  • Vertebrae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Genetics


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