Craniofacial Morphology, Adaptation and Paranasal Sinuses in Pleistocene Hominins

Keywords: Human evolution; Neanderthal; Homo heidelbergensis; taxonomy; cranial morphology; pneumatisation; climatic adaptation; dietary adaptation

Research Outline

This work stems from my PhD, which was an investigation of the craniofacial morphology of Pleistocene hominins and its relationship with sinus size and function.  Discussion of human sinus function goes back to the Greek physician Galen and the role of the sinuses in human evolution has been debated since the first Neanderthal fossils were found in the 1800s.  During my PhD, I used more precise methods of virtual, 3D measurement and very large sample, to provide support for emerging arguments that long-standing theories regarding cold adaptation of Neanderthals sinuses and craniofacial morphology are erroneous.  I also added to existing research demonstrating that Middle Pleistocene hominins have characteristically extreme sinuses, a potentially taxonomically useful feature, and showed that differences in sinus size between populations / species are most likely due to differences in facial morphology, strengthening the argument that sinuses are simply evolutionary spandrels.  I am currently involved further work to improve our understanding of the relationship between sinuses and craniofacial morphology across Pleistocene hominins.

Image showing Kabwe 1 (Broken Hill) and its virtually segmented sinuses. See Balzeau et al., 2017, PaleoAnth and Buck et al., 2019, BMSAP.


Variation in Paranasal Pneumatisation between Mid-Late Pleistocene Hominins


Other Projects involving Laura Buck

The ADaPt Project: Adaptation, Dispersals and Phenotype

This project investigates the scale and nature of human adaptation to climate using a comparative macaque proxy. On-going work within this project includes investigations into Jomon foragers and the signatures of developmental plasticity and directional selection in macaque climatic adaptation.

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