Ontogeny of craniofacial sexual dimorphism in the orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). I: Face and palate


  • Samantha M. Hens

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, California State University, Sacramento, California
    • Department of Anthropology, California State University, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6106
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The orangutan is widely recognized as a highly dimorphic species. An ontogenetic approach to the study of sexual dimorphism can assist researchers in understanding both where and when these differences develop. In this study, 357 orangutans from Borneo were divided into five developmental stages representing infancy to mature adulthood. Three-dimensional (3D) coordinate data from 16 landmarks representing the face and palate were analyzed by means of a Euclidean distance matrix analysis (EDMA), a quantitative method for the comparison of forms. Three separate analyses (an age-specific static comparison of forms, a sex-specific analysis of growth trajectories, and an intersex comparison of patterns of relative growth) were carried out with the intent to describe the rate, timing, magnitude, and pattern of growth in the orangutan face and palate. The results indicate that generally males and females share a similar, but not identical, pattern of growth or local form change, but differ in growth rate, timing, and magnitude of difference. Dimorphism in the face and palate can be localized in infancy and traced throughout all age intervals. Orangutan females grow slightly faster than males from infancy to adolescence, at which time male growth exceeds female growth. Female growth ceases with the advent of adulthood, while male growth continues (i.e., both the number and magnitude of the dimorphic dimensions increase). Males and females are similar in facial dimensions and growth related to the orbits, upper face, and palate width. They maintain these similarities throughout development. However, they differ in facial and nasal height, palate length, snout projection, depth of the nasopharynx, and hafting of the face onto the skull. The face broadens and the zygomatic bone flares dramatically in adult males, corresponding to the development of cheek pads. While growth patterns are similar between the two sexes, they differ in the lateral orbit, snout projection, and hafting of the face onto the cranium. Adult dimorphism is the result of growth patterns experienced throughout life, and it is not equally expressed across the cranium. An understanding of patterns of dimorphism, along with the magnitude of difference, may be helpful for interpreting dimorphism in the fossil record. Am. J. Primatol. 65:149–166, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.