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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2002 Mar;117(3):236-45.

Thin-plate spline analysis of allometry and sexual dimorphism in the human craniofacial complex.

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Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


The relationship between allometry and sexual dimorphism in the human craniofacial complex was analyzed using geometric morphometric methods. Thin-plate splines (TPS) analysis has been applied to investigate the lateral profile of complete adult skulls of known sex. Twenty-nine three-dimensional (3D) craniofacial and mandibular landmark coordinates were recorded from a sample of 52 adult females and 52 adult males of known age and sex. No difference in the influence of size on shape was detected between sexes. Both size and sex had significant influences on shape. As expected, the influence of centroid size on shape (allometry) revealed a shift in the proportions of the neurocranium and the viscerocranium, with a marked allometric variation of the lower face. Adjusted for centroid size, males presented a relatively larger size of the nasopharyngeal space than females. A mean-male TPS transformation revealed a larger piriform aperture, achieved by an increase of the angulation of the nasal bones and a downward rotation of the anterior nasal floor. Male pharynx expansion was also reflected by larger choanae and a more posteriorly inclined basilar part of the occipital clivus. Male muscle attachment sites appeared more pronounced. In contrast, the mean-female TPS transformation was characterized by a relatively small nasal aperture. The occipital clivus inclined anteriorly, and muscle insertion areas became smoothed. Besides these variations, both maxillary and mandibular alveolar regions became prognathic. The sex-specific TPS deformation patterns are hypothesized to be associated with sexual differences in body composition and energetic requirements.

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