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Keywords:

  • Alcelaphini;
  • functional morphology;
  • paranasal sinuses;
  • pneumaticity

Abstract

The frontal sinuses of bovid mammals display a great deal of diversity, which has been attributed to both phylogenetic and functional influences. In-depth study of the hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), a large African antelope, reveals a number of previously undescribed details of frontal sinus morphology. In A. buselaphus, the frontal sinuses conform closely to the shape of the frontal bone, filling nearly the entire element. However, the horncores are never extensively pneumatized, contrasting with the condition seen in many other bovids. This evidence is inconsistent with the hypothesis that sinuses are opportunistic pneumatizing agents, suggesting that phylogenetic factors also play a role in determining sinus size. Both cranial sutures and neurovasculature appear to constrain the growth of sinuses in part. In turn, the sinus also affects the growth of the parietal; apparently this element is not truly pneumatized by the sinus in most cases, but the bone's shape changes under the influence of the sinus. Furthermore, the sinuses present relatively few struts when compared with the sinuses of some other bovids, such as Ovis. By adapting methods previously developed for measuring structural parameters of trabecular bone, it is possible to quantify certain aspects of sinus morphology. These include the number of bony struts within the sinus, the spacing of these struts, and the size of individual cavities within the sinus. Some differences in the number of struts are evident between subspecies. Similarly, significant differences occur in the relative number of struts between male and female A. buselaphus, which may be related to behavior. The volume of the sinus is strongly correlated with the size of the frontal, but less so with overall cranial size. This finding illustrates the importance of choosing variables carefully when comparing sinus sizes and growth between species. J. Morphol., 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.