Position and orientation of the foramen magnum in higher primates.
The location of the foramen magnum, with respect to the longitudinal axis of the cranium, and its orientation with respect to the Frankfurt Horizontal, have been studied in a total of 328 modern human and Pan crania. The samples were chosen in order to examine the effect of overall size difference on foramen magnum disposition. Foramen position (expressed as three indices) and inclination are relatively invariant among the modern human samples, but the foramen magnum is consistently, and statistically significantly, more anteriorly located in Pan paniscus than in Pan troglodytes. Sexual dimorphism is virtually non-existent. There is an apparent allometric effect on foramen position, but not on inclination, so that larger crania in the modern human and Pan paniscus samples tend to have more posteriorly situated foramina. The disposition of the foramen is unrelated to cranial base angle or facial prognathism, except that in Pan paniscus its relative anterior location is linked with the more flexed cranial base in that species. These results provide a comparative context for the examination of differences in foramen magnum disposition in fossil hominids. Differences in foramen magnum position and orientation between KNM-ER 1813 and A. africanus are most unlikely to be due to within-taxon variability.