Size of the anterior fontanelle: three-dimensional measurement of a key trait in human evolution.
The anterior fontanelle (AF) is an integral element of the developing human infant craniofacial system. Consideration of the AF is crucial for assessing craniofacial growth, as altered development of this feature may indicate abnormal growth. Moreover, prolonged patency of the AF may represent a derived hominin feature. The AF is regarded as essential for fetal head molding during birth in humans, with deformation of the head during birth often necessary for successful delivery. However, the function of a patent AF among fossil hominins is unclear. Because the AF represents an important structure in both a clinical and evolutionary context, techniques for estimating the size of the AF must be accurate and reproducible. Therefore, we have developed a novel method for assessing surface area of the AF with the goal of creating a more accurate measure of this feature. In this study, we test the accuracy and repeatability of a novel three-dimensional (3D) method for assessing the size of the AF in human infants and compare the results obtained for surface area of the AF using the conventional and 3D methods.