Temporal bone pneumatization has been included in lists of characters used in phylogenetic analyses of human evolution. While studies suggest that the extent of pneumatization has decreased over the course of human evolution, little is known about the processes underlying these changes or their significance. In short, reasons for the observed reduction and the potential reorganization within pneumatized spaces are unknown. Technological limitations have limited previous analyses of pneumatization in extant and fossil species to qualitative observations of the extent of temporal bone pneumatization. In this paper, we introduce a novel application of quantitative methods developed for the study of trabecular bone to the analysis of pneumatized spaces of the temporal bone. This method utilizes high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (HRXCT) images and quantitative software to estimate three-dimensional parameters (bone volume fractions, anisotropy, and trabecular thickness) of bone structure within defined units of pneumatized spaces. We apply this approach in an analysis of temporal bones of diverse but related primate species, Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, Homo sapiens, and Papio hamadryas anubis, to illustrate the potential of these methods. In demonstrating the utility of these methods, we show that there are interspecific differences in the bone structure of pneumatized spaces, perhaps reflecting changes in the localized growth dynamics, location of muscle attachments, encephalization, or basicranial flexion.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics