Mechanical and spatial determinants of Paranthropus facial form


  • Melanie A. McCollum

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    1. Division of Biomedical Sciences, Biological Anthropology Program, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio 44242
    • Department of Anthropology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242
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It is well documented in the anthropological literature that the distinctive morphology of the “robust” hominid facial skeleton reflects its dietary specialization. Rak (1983) has provided the most comprehensive evaluation of Paranthropus facial morphology and this important study concluded that bone strain generated during mastication was responsible for the scaling of measures of facial height and breadth. The present study evaluated Rak's analysis by examining the relationship between bizygomatic breadth and facial height in an ontogenetic series of Pan and Gorilla crania. Results of this analysis indicate that facial height and breadth dimensions were not mechanically scaled in the “robust” australopithecines. Structural analysis of African ape facial maturation was also used to examine alternative spatial methods of malar elongation in Paranthropus. It is concluded that the increased height of the malar region in these specimens is not related to either vertical expansion of the posterior facial skeleton or to expansion of the temporal fossa. Malar elongation is, however, consistent with a derived pattern of facial growth in crania possessing a thickened hard palate. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.