• cranial sutures;
  • cranial shape;
  • heritability;
  • suture fusion;
  • Guttman scales


Research on cranial suture biology suggests there is biological and taxonomic information to be garnered from the heritable pattern of suture synostosis. Suture synostosis along with brain growth patterns, diet, and biomechanical forces influence phenotypic variability in cranial vault morphology. This study was designed to determine the pattern of ectocranial suture synostosis in skeletal populations from the Aleutian Islands. We address the hypothesis that ectocranial suture synostosis pattern will differ according to cranial vault shape. Ales Hrdlicka identified two phenotypes in remains excavated from the Aleutian Island. The Paleo-Aleutians, exhibiting a dolichocranic phenotype with little prognathism linked to artifacts distinguished from later inhabitants, Aleutians, who exhibited a brachycranic phenotype with a greater amount of prognathism. A total of 212 crania representing Paleo-Aleuts and Aleutian as defined by Hrdlicka were investigated for suture synostosis pattern following standard methodologies. Comparisons were performed using Guttmann analyses. Results revealed similar suture fusion patterns for the Paleo-Aleut and Aleutian, a strong anterior to posterior pattern of suture fusion for the lateral-anterior suture sites, and a pattern of early termination at the sagittal suture sites for the vault. These patterns were found to differ from that reported in the literature. Because these two populations with distinct cranial shapes exhibit similar patterns of suture synostosis it appears pattern is independent of cranial shape in these populations of Homo sapiens. These findings suggest that suture fusion patterns may be population dependent and that a standardized methodology, using suture fusion to determine age-at-death, may not be applicable to all populations. Anat Rec, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.