The Parietal Problem: How to Cut This Gordian Knot?


Department of Palaeozoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, S-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden.


Although no one has disputed that the piscine progenitors of the tetrapods have a homologue of the human parietal bone, opinions differ as to where in the skull roof this homologue is located. One view holds it to be either of two interorbital bones that together surround the foramen neuroepiphysium (and the so-called pineal plates); another, that it is each of the two mesial bones which comes next in order, behind the orbital cavities. Both of these views are untenable because neither of the proposed bones has proved to be amenable to conversion to the parietal bone of man. In seeking a solution to this issue thoughts turn to the tentorium cerebelli, whose topographic relationships and comparative morphology place it in the key position as a plausible derivative of the posterior half of the cranium of the tetrapod forerunners. Following this line of reasoning, it can be suggested that the tentorial exoskeleton, here called the pluteal bones, originally was situated in the dermis superjacent to the synotic tectum. In early therian phylogeny, these skull bones were covered by the backwardly expanding cerebral hemispheres which, concomitantly, became overgrown and thus protected by epiotic exoskeleton. It follows that the likely homologues of the human parietal bones are those parts of the skull roof of the piscine progenitors of the tetrapods that lie dorsolateral to the otic capsules.