Tag Archives: parietal bones

Cranial vault thickness in South African Australopiths

In a recent paper, Beaudet and colleagues analyze the cranial vault thickness of StW 578, a partial cranium of Australopithecus not yet assigned to a species. The authors explore the utility of cranial vault thickness and of the organization of the diploe and cortical tables as potential diagnostic criteria for hominin species. For that, they also analyze a comparative sample including other South African Late Pliocene-Early Pleistocene fossils, extant humans, and chimpanzee specimens. Fossils include specimens of Australopithecus and Paranthropus recovered from Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Makapansgat sites. Based on cranial landmarks, the authors defined homologous parasagittal and coronal sections on the CT scans, preferentially on the right hemisphere, which is better preserved in StW 578. The thickness of the diploe, the thickness of the inner and outer cortical tables, and the total thickness were measured automatically in various points sampled throughout the length of the sections. The proportion of each layer was computed by dividing the thickness by the surface area calculated between two successive points. Specimens that preserved only the left side were used for qualitative comparison. Results emphasize differences between Australopithecus and Paranthropus. The former genus tends to have thicker vaults, with a larger proportion of the diploic layer, while the latter tends to have thinner vaults, with a larger proportion of the inner and outer tables. The distribution of thickness also differs, as StW 578 and other Australopithecus crania from Sterkfontein display disproportionately thicker frontal and posterosuperior parietal regions, while Paranthropus (SK 46) and extant chimpanzees have thickest regions on cranial superstructures (supraorbital and occipital tori). As the authors suggest, thickening of the cranial vault in frontal and parietal regions needs further investigation, as to unveil a possible correlation between bone thickness and brain anatomy. Moreover, as the increase in thickness is associated with an increase in diploe proportions, variation in this layer might indicate physiological (thermoregulation) or biomechanical differences between Australopithecus and Paranthropus. In sum, cranial vault thickness patterns of StW 578 are equivalent to those of other specimens from Sterkfontein (StW 505 and Sts 71). The presence of a Paranthropus-like pattern in two of the three Mangapansgat specimens further indicates the presence of different morphs or species of Australopithecus in this site. This methodology and results provide a fine base for further studies on the taxonomic significance of the cranial vault thickness. The authors suggest beginning by including more Paranthropus specimens, and by evaluating chronological, geographic, and taxonomic variation.


Sofia Pedro


Base and vault

A study on covariation between parietal bone and endocranial base …

[post]    [paper]

The diploic vascular channels

Gizéh diploic veinsThe diploic channels are placed between the vault cortical layers (external and internal). The calvarial diploe contains large and valveless diploic veins interconnected through a complex network of microscopic channels. We have now published a procedure for segmentation of diploic channels and localization of the main vessel pathways by reducing the noise of the cancellous bone. We also provide quantitative description of the diploic vessel variation in modern humans and three Neanderthals. One modern human was reformatted at three different resolutions namely high, medium and low, to estimate the effect of the pixel resolution on the final anatomical rendering. The use of computed tomography at high resolution can hamper semi-automatic segmentation of the diploic channels. Optimal resolution should be sufficient to reveal the channels without increasing noise associated with the trabecular structure. We have found that modern humans present a remarkable variation of diploic channels in their morphological patterns, being the parietal area the most vascularized. There is a correlation in the degree of vascularization of the frontal, parietal, and occipital bone, and no asymmetries can be apparently detected. The three Neanderthals analyzed in the study also display a parietal vascular network, but less developed than modern human, suggesting these vessels may be involved in evolutionary changes. The diploic network is commonly connected with the meningeal artery at the temporal fossa, with the emissary veins at the occipital bone, and with the venous sinuses at the parieto-occipital areas. The brain and braincase of our specie are characterized by larger parietal areas, and changes in the vascular organization can be associated with thermoregulation and heat management. In this sense future research may help us to understand the possible involvement of the diploic veins in brain thermoregulation. The study of diploic channels may be relevant in anthropology, medicine, paleontology, and forensic sciences.

Gizéh Rangel de Lázaro

Brain and braincase

 Bruner et al JAnat 2015

New article on the spatial relationships between brain and braincase …

Bruner E., Amano H., de la Cuétara J.M. & Ogihara N.
The brain and the braincase: a spatial analysis
on the midsagittal profile in adult humans.
Journal of Anatomy, 2015


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