Facial Orientation and Facial Shape in Extant Great Apes: A Geometric Morphometric Analysis of Covariation

Neaux, Dimitri; Guy, Franck; Gilissen, Emmanuel; Coudyzer, Walter; Vignaud, Patrick; Ducrocq, Stéphane
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
The organization of the bony face is complex, its morphology being influenced in part by the rest of the cranium. Characterizing the facial morphological variation and craniofacial covariation patterns in extant hominids is fundamental to the understanding of their evolutionary history. Numerous studies on hominid facial shape have proposed hypotheses concerning the relationship between the anterior facial shape, facial block orientation and basicranial flexion. In this study we test these hypotheses in a sample of adult specimens belonging to three extant hominid genera (Homo, Pan and Gorilla). Intraspecific variation and covariation patterns are analyzed using geometric morphometric methods and multivariate statistics, such as partial least squared on three-dimensional landmarks coordinates. Our results indicate significant intraspecific covariation between facial shape, facial block orientation and basicranial flexion. Hominids share similar characteristics in the relationship between anterior facial shape and facial block orientation. Modern humans exhibit a specific pattern in the covariation between anterior facial shape and basicranial flexion. This peculiar feature underscores the role of modern humans' highly-flexed basicranium in the overall integration of the cranium. Furthermore, our results are consistent with the hypothesis of a relationship between the reduction of the value of the cranial base angle and a downward rotation of the facial block in modern humans, and to a lesser extent in chimpanzees.


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