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Zygomatic Root Position in Recent and Fossil Hominids

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The relative position of the zygomatic root to the dentition plays a crucial role in determining the overall strength of the face in response to bite forces. The powerful superficial head of the masseter arises there and the zygomaticoalveolar crest (ZAC) is discussed as a buttressing feature of the face. For instance, a more forwardly or backwardly positioned zygomatic root or a lower or higher vertical distance to the dentition could be indicative for evolutionary adaptations to particular loading regimes which are associated with diet. We therefore examined the morphology of the maxilla using state‐of‐the‐art 3D Geometric Morphometric methods. The data set was reduced to a minimum of relevant measurements and includes five landmarks (pr, ol, zm, lingual and buccal midpoint of second molar alveoli) and three curves with semilandmarks along the lingual and buccal alveolar rim and the ZAC. Results show a stunning overlap in shape variation. We find no clear pattern of shape that would allow separating different hominid groups with confidence, except two extreme forms—Paranthropines and Neanderthals. We also find no clear trend over time. Australopithecines, Habilines, Erectines, and Middle Pleistocene Homo can be very similar to modern humans. Even great apes are within or not far from the central shape distribution of Homo, but they separate clearly from gracile and robust Australopithecines. We discuss the shape factors underlying our data. The geometry studied allows simple measurements and analyses and is thus potentially interesting for classification purposes of extreme forms. Anat Rec, 300:160–170, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Keywords: biomechanics; buttress; human evolution; mastication; maxilla; zygomatic arch; zygomatic process; zygomaticoalveolar crest

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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