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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008 Feb;135(2):182-94.

Development of the supralaryngeal vocal tract in Japanese macaques: implications for the evolution of the descent of the larynx.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Physical Anthropology, Department of Zoology, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan. nishimur@pri.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Abstract

The configuration of the supralaryngeal vocal tract depends on the nonuniform growth of the oral and pharyngeal portion. The human pharynx develops to form a unique configuration, with the epiglottis losing contact with the velum. This configuration develops from the great descent of the larynx relative to the palate, which is accomplished through both the descent of the laryngeal skeleton relative to the hyoid and the descent of the hyoid relative to the palate. Chimpanzees show both processes of laryngeal descent, as in humans, but the evolutionary path before the divergence of the human and chimpanzee lineages is unclear. The development of laryngeal descent in six living Japanese macaque monkeys, Macaca fuscata, was examined monthly during the first three years of life using magnetic resonance imaging, to delineate the present or absence of these two processes and their contributions to the development of the pharyngeal topology. The macaque shows descent of the hyoid relative to the palate, but lacks the descent of the laryngeal skeleton relative to the hyoid and that of the EG from the VL. We argue that the former descent is simply a morphological consequence of mandibular growth and that the latter pair of descents arose in a common ancestor of extant hominoids. Thus, the evolutionary path of the great descent of the larynx is likely to be explained by a model comprising multiple and mosaic evolutionary pathways, wherein these developmental phenomena may have contributed secondarily to the faculty of speech in the human lineage.

PMID:
17960727
DOI:
10.1002/ajpa.20719
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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