Posterior maxillary (PM) plane and anterior cranial architecture in primates



This study tests several hypotheses of integration between the cranial base and face in primates. After reviewing the definition and anatomical basis for the posterior maxillary (PM) plane, which demarcates the back of the midface at its junction with the sphenoid, we demonstrate how the PM plane can be identified accurately on radiographs, and confirm that it maintains a 90° angle relative to the Neutral Horizontal Axis of the orbits in all primates. In addition, we use the PM plane to test Dabelow's (1929) hypothesis that the orbits and anterior cranial base are more highly integrated in anthropoids than in strepsirrhines, and we test the hypothesis that the midline anterior cranial base (planum sphenoideum) and anterior cranial floor (planum sphenoideum plus cribriform plate) in primates are highly correlated with each other relative to the PM plane. The mean angle between the anterior cranial base and the PM plane does not differ significantly from 90° in anthropoids, but differs significantly in strepsirrhines. The anterior cranial base and anterior cranial floor, however, correlate well with each other relative to the PM plane in both suborders of primates, independent of orbital orientation and configuration. The PM plane, anterior cranial base, and anterior cranial floor, therefore, form an integrated structural complex, a “facial block,” whose orientation relative to the posterior cranial base influences craniofacial shape among anthropoids in which orbital orientation influences the orientation of the anterior cranial base. One such effect is that increases in cranial base flexion shorten the antero-posterior length of the nasopharynx. Anat Rec 264:247–260, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.