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Structural organization of the cranial vault in Neanderthals and present-day humans: Can endocranial shape characteristics be explained by vault thickness?

Organisation structurale de la voûte crânienne chez les Néandertaliens et les humains actuels : les différences caractéristiques de la conformation endocrânienne peuvent-elles être expliquées par l’épaisseur de la voûte ?
Sélim Natahi, Simon Neubauer, Zewdi J. Tsegai, Jean-Jacques Hublin et Philipp Gunz

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1In studies of hominin brain evolution the shape of the interior braincase (or endocranium) is often used to infer cortical organization. However, the braincase is not only shaped by brain, but also by the interplay of evolutionary and developmental changes of facial size and shape, the development of soft tissues, and neurocranial bone thickness. It therefore remains unclear to what extent the well-documented endocranial shape differences between the more globular present-day humans and the more elongated Neanderthals reflect differences in brain organization, or can be explained by differences in bone thickness across the cranial vault. In a sample comprising 75 high-resolution CT scans of present-day humans and seven Neanderthals, we quantified for the first time the average thickness of each of the three cranial layers as well as their total thickness. Using covariation analyses and multiple multivariate regressions, we examined the relationship between the overall cranial thickness and 935 (semi)landmarks capturing endocranial shape using geometric morphometrics. We find that Neanderthals have generally thicker cranial vaults than present-day humans across all layers, leading to an overall thicker vault. This thickness is largely attributed to the diploic layer. Moreover, we show that Neanderthals have thicker parietal walls than present day humans and a different structural organization of the cranial vault posterior to the coronal suture. Importantly, our analyses reveal that the differences in endocranial shapes between the two groups are not solely due to skull thickness. This suggests that some of these shape differences may indicate differences in neural architecture between Neanderthals and present-day humans.

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Sélim Natahi, Simon Neubauer, Zewdi J. Tsegai, Jean-Jacques Hublin et Philipp Gunz, « Structural organization of the cranial vault in Neanderthals and present-day humans: Can endocranial shape characteristics be explained by vault thickness? »Bulletins et mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris [En ligne], 36(S) | 2024, mis en ligne le 23 décembre 2023, consulté le 21 février 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/bmsap/13278 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/bmsap.13278

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Auteurs

Sélim Natahi

Department of Paleoanthropology, CIRB (UMR 7241–U1050), Collège de France, Paris, France ; Department of Human Origins, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany ; selim.natahi[at]gmail.com

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Simon Neubauer

Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria

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Zewdi J. Tsegai

Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, USA

Jean-Jacques Hublin

Department of Paleoanthropology, CIRB (UMR 7241–U1050), Collège de France, Paris, France ; Department of Human Origins, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

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Philipp Gunz

Department of Human Origins, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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