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Brief communication: Testing the usefulness of the basilar suture as a means to determine age in great ape skeletons



A fused/closed basilar suture is usually treated as an indication of old age in great apes. A sample, drawn from a variety of sources, of known-aged captive great ape skeletons was analyzed to test the usefulness of using the basilar suture to categorize adult skeletons as either “adult” or “old adult”. The state of closure of the basilar suture was examined in 30 chimpanzees, 19 gorillas, and 15 orangutans, all of known age. The results show that the basilar suture demonstrates a high level of uniformity in rate of closure and is closed at an early age in virtually all known-aged individuals. Thus, an old adult category most likely includes individuals who are, in fact, relatively young. This indicates that using the basilar suture as a means to classify individual skeletons as adult or old adult is very imprecise. The homogenous nature of basilar suture closure appears to prevent meaningful application of suture status for categorizing adult ape skeletons by age groups. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.