The ontogeny of cranial base angulation in humans and chimpanzees and its implications for reconstructing pharyngeal dimensions.
This paper examines differences in the processes by which the cranial base flexes in humans and extends in chimpanzees. In addition, we test the extent to which one can use comparisons of cranial base angles in humans and non-human primates to predict vocal tract dimensions. Four internal cranial base angles and one external cranial base angle were measured in a longitudinal sample of Homo sapiens and a cross-sectional sample of Pan troglodytes. These data show that the processes of cranial base angulation differ substantially in these species. While the human cranial base flexes postnatally in a rapid growth trajectory that is complete by two years, the cranial base in P. troglodytes extends postnatally in a more prolonged skeletal growth trajectory. These comparisons also demonstrate that the rate of cranial base angulation is comparable for different measures, but that angles which incorporate different anterior cranial base measurements correlate poorly. We also examined ontogenetic relationships between internal and external cranial base angles and vocal tract growth in humans to test the hypothesis that cranial base angulation influences pharyngeal dimensions and can, therefore, be used to estimate vocal tract proportions in fossil hominids. Our results indicate that internal and external cranial base angles are independent of the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the vocal tract. Instead, a combination of mandibular and palatal landmarks can be used to predict dimensions of the vocal tract in H. sapiens. The developmental contrasts in cranial base angulation between humans and non-human primates may have important implications for testing hypotheses about the relationship between cranial base flexion and other craniofacial dimensions in hominid evolution.