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Brief Communication: Timing of spheno‐occipital closure in modern Western Australians

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The spheno‐occipital synchondrosis is a craniofacial growth centre between the occipital and sphenoid bones—its ossification persists into adolescence, which for the skeletal biologist, means it has potential application for estimating subadult age. Based on previous research the timing of spheno‐occipital fusion is widely variable between and within populations, with reports of complete fusion in individuals as young as 11 years of age and nonfusion in adults. The aim of this study is, therefore, to examine this structure in a mixed sex sample of Western Australian individuals that developmentally span late childhood to adulthood. The objective is to develop statistically quantified age estimation standards based on scoring the degree of spheno‐occipital fusion. The sample comprises multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) scans of 312 individuals (169 male; 143 female) between 5 and 25 years of age. Each MDCT scan is visualized in a standardized sagittal plane using three‐dimensional oblique multiplanar reformatting. Fusion status is scored according to a four‐stage system. Transition analysis is used to calculate age ranges for each defined stage and determine the mean age for transition between an unfused, fusing and fused status. The maximum likelihood estimates for the transition from open to fusing in the endocranial half is 14.44 years (male) and 11.42 years (female); transition from fusion in the ectocranial half to complete fusion is 16.16 years (male) and 13.62 years (female). This study affirms the potential value of assessing the degree of fusion in the spheno‐occipital synchondrosis as an indicator of skeletal age. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:132–138, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Keywords: Western Australia; age estimation; forensic anthropology; spheno‐occipital synchondrosis; transition analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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