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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Basicranial flexion, relative brain size, and facial kyphosis in Homo sapiens and some fossil hominids.

Comparative work among nonhominid primates has demonstrated that the basicranium becomes more flexed with increasing brain size relative to basicranial length and as the upper and lower face become more ventrally deflected (Ross and Ravosa [1993] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 91:305-324). In order to determine whether modern humans and fossil hominids follow these trends, the cranial base angle (measure of basicranial flexion), angle of facial kyphosis, and angle of orbital axis orientation were measured from computed tomography (CT) scans of fossil hominids (Sts 5, MLD 37/38, OH9, Kabwe) and lateral radiographs of 99 extant humans. Brain size relative to basicranial length was calculated from measures of neurocranial volume and basicranial length taken from original skulls, radiographs, CT scans, and the literature. Results of bivariate correlation analyses revealed that among modern humans basicranial flexion and brain size/basicranial length are not significantly correlated, nor are the angles of orbital axis orientation and facial kyphosis. However, basicranial flexion and orbit orientation are significantly positively correlated among the humans sampled, as are basicranial flexion and the angle of facial kyphosis. Relative to the comparative sample from Ross and Ravosa (1993), all hominids have more flexed basicrania than other primates: Archaic Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, and Australopithecus africanus do not differ significantly from Modern Homo sapiens in their degree of basicranial flexion, although they differ widely in their relative brain size. Comparison of the hominid values with those predicted by the nonhominid reduced major-axis equations reveal that, for their brain size/basicranial length, Archaic and Modern Homo sapiens have less flexed basicrania than predicted. H. erectus and A. africanus have the degree of basicranial flexion predicted by the nonhominid reduced major-axis equation. Modern humans have more ventrally deflected orbits than all other primates and, for their degree of basicranial flexion, have more ventrally deflected orbits than predicted by the regression equations for hominoids. All hominoids have more ventrally deflected orbital axes relative to their palate orientation than other primates. It is argued that hominids do not strictly obey the trend for basicranial flexion to increase with increasing relative brain size because of constraints on the amount of flexion that do not allow it to decrease much below 90 degrees. Therefore, if basicranial flexion is a mechanism for accommodating an expanding brain among non-hominid primates, other mechanisms must be at work among hominids.[1]


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