The application of knemometry to measure childhood short-term growth among the indigenous Shuar of Ecuador

Samuel S. Urlacher, J. Josh Snodgrass, Melissa A. Liebert, Tara J. Cepon-Robins, Theresa E. Gildner, Lawrence S. Sugiyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives Knemometry, the precise measurement of lower leg (LL) length, suggests that childhood short-term (e.g.; weekly) growth is a dynamic, nonlinear process. However, owing to the large size and complexity of the traditional knemometer device, previous study of short-term growth among children has been restricted predominantly to clinical settings in industrialized Western nations. The aim of the present study is to address this limitation and promote broader understandings of global variation in childhood development by: (1) describing a custom-built portable knemometer and assessing its performance in the field; and (2) demonstrating the potential application of such a device by characterizing childhood short-term LL growth among the indigenous Shuar of Amazonian Ecuador. Materials and Methods Mixed-longitudinal LL length data were collected weekly from 336 Shuar children age 5-12 years old using the custom portable knemometer (n = 1,145 total observations). Device performance and Shuar short-term LL growth were explored using linear mixed effects models and descriptive statistics. Results The portable knemometer performed well across a range of participant characteristics and possesses a low technical error of measurement of 0.18 mm. Shuar childhood LL growth averages 0.47 mm/week (SD = 0.75 mm/week), but exhibits large between- and within-individual variation. Discussion Knemometry can be reliably performed in the field, providing a means for evaluating childhood short-term growth among genetically and ecologically diverse populations. Preliminary findings suggest that Shuar weekly LL growth is comparable in mean magnitude but likely more variable than reported for healthy Western children. Future work will further explore these patterns. Am J Phys Anthropol 160:353-357, 2016.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-357
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Amazonia
  • human biological variation
  • leg length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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