• chondrocranium;
  • computed tomography;
  • human variation;
  • septal deviation


As a component of the chondrocranium, the nasal septum influences the anteroposterior dimensions of the facial skeleton. The role of the septum as a facial growth center, however, has been studied primarily in long-snouted mammals, and its precise influence on human facial growth is not as well understood. Whereas the nasal septum may be important in the anterior growth of the human facial skeleton early in ontogeny, the high incidence of nasal septal deviation in humans suggests the septum’s influence on human facial length is limited to the early phases of facial growth. Nevertheless, the nasal septum follows a growth trajectory similar to the facial skeleton and, as such, its prolonged period of growth may influence other aspects of facial development. Using computed tomography scans of living human subjects (= 70), the goal of the present study is to assess the morphological relationship between the nasal septum and facial skeleton in European- and African-derived populations, which have been shown to exhibit early developmental differences in the nasal septal–premaxillary complex. First we assessed whether there is population variation in the size of the nasal septum in European- and African-derived samples. This included an evaluation of septal deviation and the spatial constraints that influence variation in this condition. Next, we assessed the relationship between nasal septal size and craniofacial shape using multivariate regression techniques. Our results indicate that there is significant population variation in septal size and magnitude of septal deviation, both of which are greater in the European-derived sample. While septal deviation suggests a disjunction between the nasal septum and other components of the facial skeleton, we nevertheless found a significant relationship between the size of the nasal septum and craniofacial shape, which appears to largely be a response to the need to accommodate variation in nasal septal size.