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Technical note: Quantification of neurocranial shape variation using the shortest paths connecting pairs of anatomical landmarks


Correspondence to: Naomichi Ogihara, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, 3-14-1 Hiyoshi, Yokohama 223-8522, Japan. E-mail:


Three-dimensional geometric morphometric techniques have been widely used in quantitative comparisons of craniofacial morphology in humans and nonhuman primates. However, few anatomical landmarks can actually be defined on the neurocranium. In this study, an alternative method is proposed for defining semi-landmarks on neurocranial surfaces for use in detailed analysis of cranial shape. Specifically, midsagittal, nuchal, and temporal lines were approximated using Bezier curves and equally spaced points along each of the curves were defined as semi-landmarks. The shortest paths connecting pairs of anatomical landmarks as well as semi-landmarks were then calculated in order to represent the surface morphology between landmarks using equally spaced points along the paths. To evaluate the efficacy of this method, the previously outlined technique was used in morphological analysis of sexual dimorphism in modern Japanese crania. The study sample comprised 22 specimens that were used to generate 110 anatomical semi-landmarks, which were used in geometric morphometric analysis. Although variations due to sexual dimorphism in human crania are very small, differences could be identified using the proposed landmark placement, which demonstrated the efficacy of the proposed method. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:658–666, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.