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Keywords:

  • craniofacial growth;
  • paleoanthropology;
  • human evolution;
  • Neandertals;
  • modern humans;
  • Sus scrofa;
  • rigid plate fixation

Abstract

The influence of the chondrocranium in craniofacial development and its role in the reduction of facial size and projection in the genus Homo is incompletely understood. As one component of the chondrocranium, the nasal septum has been argued to play a significant role in human midfacial growth, particularly with respect to its interaction with the premaxilla during prenatal and early postnatal development. Thus, understanding the precise role of nasal septal growth on the facial skeleton is potentially informative with respect to the evolutionary change in craniofacial form. In this study, we assessed the integrative effects of the nasal septum and premaxilla by experimentally reducing facial length in Sus scrofa via circummaxillary suture fixation. Following from the nasal septal-traction model, we tested the following hypotheses: (1) facial growth restriction produces no change in nasal septum length; and (2) restriction of facial length produces compensatory premaxillary growth due to continued nasal septal growth. With respect to hypothesis 1, we found no significant differences in septum length (using the vomer as a proxy) in our experimental (n = 10), control (n = 9) and surgical sham (n = 9) trial groups. With respect to hypothesis 2, the experimental group exhibited a significant increase in premaxilla length. Our hypotheses were further supported by multivariate geometric morphometric analysis and support an integrative relationship between the nasal septum and premaxilla. Thus, continued assessment of the growth and integration of the nasal septum and premaxilla is potentially informative regarding the complex developmental mechanisms that underlie facial reduction in genus Homo evolution. Anat Rec, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.