Quantifying temporal bone morphology of great apes and humans: an approach using geometric morphometrics


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Abstract

The hominid temporal bone offers a complex array of morphology that is linked to several different functional systems. Its frequent preservation in the fossil record gives the temporal bone added significance in the study of human evolution, but its morphology has proven difficult to quantify. In this study we use techniques of 3D geometric morphometrics to quantify differences among humans and great apes and discuss the results in a phylogenetic context. Twenty-three landmarks on the ectocranial surface of the temporal bone provide a high level of anatomical detail. Generalized Procrustes analysis (GPA) is used to register (adjust for position, orientation and scale) landmark data from 405 adults representing Homo, Pan, Gorilla and Pongo. Principal components analysis of residuals from the GPA shows that the major source of variation is between humans and apes. Human characteristics such as a coronally orientated petrous axis, a deep mandibular fossa, a projecting mastoid process, and reduced lateral extension of the tympanic element strongly impact the analysis. In phenetic cluster analyses, gorillas and orangutans group together with respect to chimpanzees, and all apes group together with respect to humans. Thus, the analysis contradicts depictions of African apes as a single morphotype. Gorillas and orangutans lack the extensive preglenoid surface of chimpanzees, and their mastoid processes are less medially inflected. These and other characters shared by gorillas and orangutans are probably primitive for the African hominid clade.

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