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Human cranial anatomy and the differential preservation of population history and climate signatures.

Authors
  • Harvati, Katerina1
  • Weaver, Timothy D
  • 1 Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. [email protected] , (Germany)
Type
Published Article
Journal
The anatomical record. Part A, Discoveries in molecular, cellular, and evolutionary biology
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2006
Volume
288
Issue
12
Pages
1225–1233
Identifiers
PMID: 17075844
Source
Medline
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Cranial morphology is widely used to reconstruct evolutionary relationships, but its reliability in reflecting phylogeny and population history has been questioned. Some cranial regions, particularly the face and neurocranium, are believed to be influenced by the environment and prone to convergence. Others, such as the temporal bone, are thought to reflect more accurately phylogenetic relationships. Direct testing of these hypotheses was not possible until the advent of large genetic data sets. The few relevant studies in human populations have had intriguing but possibly conflicting results, probably partly due to methodological differences and to the small numbers of populations used. Here we use three-dimensional (3D) geometric morphometrics methods to test explicitly the ability of cranial shape, size, and relative position/orientation of cranial regions to track population history and climate. Morphological distances among 13 recent human populations were calculated from four 3D landmark data sets, respectively reflecting facial, neurocranial, and temporal bone shape; shape and relative position; overall cranial shape; and centroid sizes. These distances were compared to neutral genetic and climatic distances among the same, or closely matched, populations. Results indicate that neurocranial and temporal bone shape track neutral genetic distances, while facial shape reflects climate; centroid size shows a weak association with climatic variables; and relative position/orientation of cranial regions does not appear correlated with any of these factors. Because different cranial regions preserve population history and climate signatures differentially, caution is suggested when using cranial anatomy for phylogenetic reconstruction. Copyright (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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