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Morphological Integration of the Modern Human Mandible during Ontogeny

International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
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Craniofacial integration is prevalent in anatomical modernity research. Little investigation has been done on mandibular integration. Integration patterns were quantified in a longitudinal modern human sample of mandibles. This integration pattern is one of modularization between the alveolar and muscle attachment regions, but with age-specific differences. The ascending ramus and nonalveolar portions of the corpus remain integrated throughout ontogeny. The alveolar region is dynamic, becoming modularized according to the needs of the mandible at a particular developmental stage. Early in ontogeny, this modularity reflects the need for space for the developing dentition; later, modularity is more reflective of mastication. The overall pattern of modern human mandibular integration follows the integration pattern seen in other mammals, including chimpanzees. Given the differences in craniofacial integration patterns between humans and chimpanzees, but the similarities in mandibular integration, it is likely that the mandible has played the more passive role in hominin skull evolution.

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