A New Method for the Analysis of Soft Tissues with Data Acquired under Field Conditions

Ruth-Sophie Sonnweber, Nina Stobbe, Olmo Zavala Romero, Dennis E. Slice, Martin Fieder, Bernard Wallner, Ruth-Sophie Sonnweber

Analyzing soft-tissue structures is particularly challenging due to the lack of homologous landmarks that can be reliably identified across time and specimens. This is particularly true when data are to be collected under field conditions. Here, we present a method that combines photogrammetric techniques and geometric morphometrics methods (GMM) to quantify soft tissues for their subsequent volumetric analysis. We combine previously developed methods for landmark data acquisition and processing with a custom program for volumetric computations. Photogrammetric methods are a particularly powerful tool for field studies as they allow for image acquisition with minimal equipment requirements and for the acquisition of the spatial coordinates of points (anatomical landmarks or others) from these images. For our method, a limited number of homologous landmarks, i.e., points that can be found on any specimen independent of space and time, and further distinctive points, which may vary over time, space and subject, are identified on two-dimensional photographs and their three-dimensional coordinates estimated using photogrammetric methods. The three-dimensional configurations are oriented by the spatial principal components (PCs) of the homologous points. Crucially, this last step orients the configuration such that x and y-information (PC1 and PC2 coordinates) constitute an anatomically-defined plane with the z-values (PC3 coordinate) in the direction of interest for volume computation. The z-coordinates are then used to estimate the volume of the tissue. We validate our method using a physical, geometric model of known dimensions and physical (wax) models designed to approximate perineal swellings in female macaques. To demonstrate the usefulness and potential of our method, we use it to estimate the volumes of Barbary macaque sexual swellings recorded in the field with video images. By analyzing both the artificial data and real monkey swellings, we validate our method's accuracy and illustrate its potential for application in important areas of biological research.

Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Dean's office of the Faculty of Life Sciences, Quality Assurance
External organisation(s)
Universität Wien, Florida State University
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106001 General biology
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