• morphometrics;
  • principal components analysis;
  • skull


Many studies in primate and human evolution focus on aspects of cranial morphology to address issues of systematics, phylogeny, and functional anatomy. However, broad analyses of cranial diversity within Primates as an Order are notably absent. In this study, we present a 3D geometric morphometric analysis of primate cranial morphology, providing a multivariate comparison of the major patterns of cranial shape change during primate evolution and quantitative assessments of cranial diversity among different clades. We digitized a set of 18 landmarks designed to capture overall cranial shape on male and female crania representing 66 genera of living primates. The landmark data were aligned using a Generalized Procrustes Analysis and then subjected to a principal components analysis to identify the major axes of cranial variation. Cranial diversity among clades was compared using multivariate measurements of variance. The first principal component axis reflects differences in cranial flexion, orbit size and orientation, and relative neurocranial volume. In general, it separates strepsirrhines from anthropoids. The second axis reflects differences in relative cranial height and snout length and primarily describes differences among anthropoids. Eulemur, Mandrillus, Pongo, and Homo are among the extremes in cranial shape. Anthropoids, catarrhines, and haplorhines show a higher variance than prosimians or strepsirrhines. Hominoids show the highest variance in cranial shape among extant primate clades, and much of this diversity is driven by the unique cranium of Homo sapiens. Am J Phys Anthropol 142:565–578, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.