Brief communication: Histology and micro CT as methods for assessment of facial suture patency



The extent of fusion in facial sutures has implications for topics ranging from biomechanics to phylogeny reconstruction. An unfortunate limitation of studying sutural fusion in skeletal specimens is that it is difficult to assess whether apparently patent sutures are in fact fused internally. Both histology and microcomputed tomography (CT) are potential tools for solving this, but relatively few studies have attempted to discern the limits of micro CT for visualization of microanatomical structures. We examined microanatomical aspects of facial sutures in adult cadaveric samples from captive bushbabies. Premaxillary and nasopremaxillary sutures were examined in serially sectioned snouts of four greater bushbabies (Otolemur garnettii) and four lesser bushbabies (Galago moholi). Sections containing sutures with osseous bridging were rated as “fused,” and the presence or absence of grooves on the external side was recorded. One bushbaby was studied using micro CT prior to physical sectioning. O. garnettii and two of the G. moholi show multiple foci of fusion. Histological examination confirmed that sutural fusion is limited to the internal surface in numerous sections, resulting in an external notch. Such points of internal fusion could be clearly visualized in raw CT slices. The presence of such notches suggests that external examination can underestimate the degree of suture fusion. Thus, microanatomical evidence may be needed to fully assess biomechanical correlates and phylogenetic interpretations based on fusion of facial sutures. Our results also indicate micro CT may be a useful tool to obtain this evidence. Am J Phys Anthropol 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.