Developmental covariation of human vault and base throughout postnatal ontogeny

Jimena Barbeito-Andrés, Fernando Ventrice, Marisol Anzelmo, Héctor M Pucciarelli, Marina L Sardi
Annals of Anatomy 2015, 197: 59-66
In the present study, we analyzed postnatal ontogenetic integration among morphological traits of the human neurocranium. Particularly, the covariation between the vault and the base during postnatal life was assessed. Since the association between these regions may depend on the generalized change produced by allometry, we tested its effect on their covariation. On a sample of adults and subadults ranging from 0 to 31 years, 3D coordinates of neurocranial landmarks and semilandmarks were digitized and geometric morphometric technics were applied. Main aspects of shape variation were examined using Principal Components analysis. Covariation between the vault and the base was examined by Partial Least Squares analysis. According to our results, the vault and the base covary strongly during postnatal ontogeny and their relation depends largely on allometry. Two size variables were studied: centroid size, which was obtained from the recorded morphometric points, and endocranial volume, taken as an estimation of brain size. Although growing brain was found to be a developmental process that contributes to covariation among neurocranial traits, there would be other factors that exert their influence during ontogeny. These results lead to reconsider cranial morphological evolution taking into account the developmental constraints given by ontogenetic patterns of integration and reinforcing the idea that in human evolution a suite of relevant characters may be fuelled by few developmental processes.

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