Hierarchical nature of morphological integration and modularity in the human posterior face

Authors

  • Markus Bastir,

    Corresponding author
    1. Hull York Medical School, The University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
    2. Department of Paleobiology, Museo National de Ciencas Naturales, CSIC, 28006 Madrid, Spain
    • Hull York Medical School, The University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK
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  • Antonio Rosas

    1. Department of Paleobiology, Museo National de Ciencas Naturales, CSIC, 28006 Madrid, Spain
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Abstract

Morphological integration and modularity are important points of intersection between evolution and the development of organismal form. Identification and quantification of integration are also of increasing paleoanthropological interest. In this study, the “posterior face,” i.e., the mandibular ramus and its integration with the associated midline and lateral basicranium, is analyzed in lateral radiographs of 144 adult humans from three different geographic regions. The null hypothesis of homogenously pervasive morphological integration among “posterior-face” components is tested with Procrustes geometric morphometrics, partial least squares, and singular warps analysis. The results reveal statistically significant differences in integration. Only loose integrative relationships are found between midline and lateral components of the basicranium, which may indicate the presence of at least two different basicranial modules. This modularity can be interpreted in terms of spatiotemporal dissociation in the development of those basicranial structures, and gives support to hypotheses of independent phylogenetic modifications at the lateral and midline basicranium in humans. In addition, morphological integration was statistically significantly stronger between the middle cranial fossa and the mandibular ramus than between the ramus and the midline cranial base. This finding confirms previous hypotheses of a “petroso-mandibular unit,” which could be a developmental consequence of well-known phylogenetic modifications in coronal topology of the posterior face and base in hominoid evolution, related to middle cranial fossa expansion. This unit could be involved in later evolutionary tendencies in the hominid craniofacial system. Am J Phys Anthropol 128:26–34, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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