The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Craneometric morphological patterns in hominin evolution

JUAN MANUEL JIMÉNEZ-ARENAS1, JUAN ANTONIO PÉREZ-CLAROS2 and PAUL PALMQVIST2.

1Departamento de Prehistoria y Arqueología, Universidad de Granada, 2Departamento de Ecología y Geología (Área de Paleontología), Universidad de Málaga

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Here we analyze craniometric variability in a large sample of anatomically modern humans, big apes and extinct hominins in the search for overall craneometric patterns in both australopiths and extinct Homo. Specifically, we have used six metric variables, three for the neurocranium and three for the splachnocranium. The results obtained in a principal components analysis allow characterizing the morphospace of the living hominoids and the extinct hominins using the first two components (93% of the original variance accounted for).

According to the scores of the cranial specimens on the bivariate plot for these components, we interpret the first one as a shape vector. In this component, the individuals follow a morphological gradient wherein those individuals with larger faces and smaller neurocrania score on the left side, while those with smaller faces and larger neurocrania are placed on the right side. The second component can be interpreted as a size vector. As a result we can infer three different general patterns. The big apes and australopiths share a similar morphological trend: the smaller the cranium is, more human-like it resembles. Thus, their shape differences are only a matter of size. However, a dramatic change arises with extinct Homo, because the bigger the cranium is, more human-like it resembles. The last trend, which is the opposite to that shown by the big apes and australopiths, leads to the pattern of modern humans, in which the neurocranium is larger and the face is smaller than in a similar sized extinct Homo.

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