A new OH5 reconstruction with an assessment of its uncertainty

Stefano Benazzi, Fred L Bookstein, David S Strait, Gerhard W Weber
Journal of Human Evolution 2011, 61 (1): 75-88
The OH5 cranium, holotype of Paranthropus boisei consists of two main portions that do not fit together: the extensively reconstructed face and a portion of the neurocranium. A physical reconstruction of the cranium was carried out by Tobias in 1967, who did not discuss problems related to deformation, although he noted a slight functional asymmetry. Nevertheless, the reconstructed cranium shows some anomalies, mainly due to the right skewed position of the upper calvariofacial fragment and uncertainty of the relative position of the neurocranium to the face, which hamper further quantitative analysis of OH5's cranial geometry. Here, we present a complete virtual reconstruction of OH5, using three-dimensional (3D) digital data, geometric morphometric (GM) methods and computer-aided design (CAD) techniques. Starting from a CT scan of Tobias's reconstruction, a semi-automatic segmentation method was used to remove Tobias's plaster. The upper calvariofacial fragment was separated from the lower facial fragment and re-aligned using superposition of their independent midsagittal planes in a range of feasible positions. The missing parts of the right hemiface were reconstructed using non-uniform rational basis-spline (NURBS) surface and subsequently mirrored using the midsagittal plane to arrive at a symmetrical facial reconstruction. A symmetric neurocranium was obtained as the average of the original shape and its mirrored version. The alignment between the two symmetric shapes (face and neurocranium) used their independent midsagittal plane and a reference shape (KNM-ER 406) to highly reduce their degrees of freedom. From the series of alternative reconstructions, we selected the middle of this rather small feasible range. When reconstructed as a range in this way, the whole cranial form of this unique specimen can be further quantified by comparative coordinate-based methods such as GM or can be used for finite element modeling (FEM) explorations of hypotheses about the mechanics of early hominin feeding and diets.

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