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      Comparative review of the human bony labyrinth

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      American Journal of Physical Anthropology
      Wiley

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          Abstract

          The bony labyrinth inside the petrous part of the temporal bone houses the organs of hearing and balance. Being functionally linked with sensory control of body movements and located in a part of the basicranium that is closely associated with the brain, this structure is of great interest in the study of human evolutionary history. However, few aspects of its morphology have been studied in nonhuman primates. This review compares the bony labyrinth of humans with that of the great apes and 37 other primate species based on data newly acquired with computed tomography combined with previous descriptions. With body mass taken into account, consistent differences are found between the size of the semicircular canals in humans, the great apes, and other primates. In particular, the arcs of the anterior and posterior canals are larger in humans than in the African apes. The functional implications of semicircular canal dimensions for registering angular head motion are evaluated in relation to locomotor behavior. Biophysical models, comparative studies, and some neurophysiological experiments all support a link between semicircular canal size and agility, or more specifically the frequency contents of natural head movements, but the evidence on the exact nature of this link is ambiguous. It is concluded that any link between the characteristic dimensions of the human canals and locomotion will be more complex than a simple association with the broad categories of quadrupedal vs. bipedal behavior. The functionally important planar orientations of the semicircular canals are similar in humans and the African apes as well as in many other species. In contrast, other aspects of the human labyrinth differ markedly in shape, following a pattern that seems to reflect the characteristic architecture of the human basicranium. Indeed, it is found that labyrinthine and basicranial shape are interspecifically correlated in the sample, and in most respects the human morphology is consistent with the general trend among primate species. Differences in brain growth and development are proposed as the predominant factor underlying both the unique shape of the human labyrinth as well as the interspecific labyrintho-basicranial correlations.

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          Most cited references106

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          Body mass in comparative primatology.

          Data are presented on adult body mass for 230 of 249 primate species, based on a review of the literature and previously unpublished data. The issues involved in collecting data on adult body mass are discussed, including the definition of adults, the effects of habitat and pregnancy, the strategy for pooling data on single species from multiple studies, and use of an appropriate number of significant figures. An analysis of variability in body mass indicates that the coefficient of variation for body mass increases with increasing species mean mass. Evaluation of several previous body mass reviews reveals a number of shortcomings with data that have been used often in comparative studies.
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            A late Neanderthal associated with Upper Palaeolithic artefacts.

            The French site of Arcy-sur-Cure is a key locality in documenting the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe. Reliable attribution of the fragmentary hominid fossils associated with its early Upper Palaeolithic Châtelperronian industry has not been possible. Here we report the first conclusive identification of one of these fossils as Neanderthal on the basis of newly discovered derived features of the bony labyrinth. Dated at about thirty-four thousand years (34 kyr) ago, the fossil is representative of the youngest known Neanderthal populations, and its archaeological context indicates that these hominids used a rich bone industry as well as personal ornaments. The evidence supports the hypothesis of a long term coexistence with technocultural interactions between the first modern humans and the last Neanderthals in Europe. However, the complete absence of the derived Neanderthal traits in labyrinths of modern Upper Palaeolithic specimens from western Europe argues against phylogenetic continuity between the two populations in this region.
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              Linear measurements of cortical bone and dental enamel by computed tomography: applications and problems.

              This paper explores the potential of high-resolution computed tomography (CT) as a morphometric tool in paleoanthropology. The accuracy of linear measurements of enamel thickness and cortical bone thickness taken from CT scans is evaluated by making comparison with measurements taken directly from physical sections. The measurements of cortical bone are taken on extant and fossil specimens with and without attached matrix, and the dental specimens studied include a sample of 12 extant human molars. Local CT numbers (representing X-ray attenuation) are used to determine the exact position of the boundaries of a structure. Using this technique most studied dimensions, including four of human molar enamel thickness, could be obtained from CT scans with a maximum error range of +/- 0.1 mm. The limitations of the method are discussed with special reference to problems associated with highly mineralized fossils.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                American Journal of Physical Anthropology
                Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.
                Wiley
                00029483
                10968644
                1998
                1998
                : 107
                : S27
                : 211-251
                Article
                10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(1998)107:27+<211::AID-AJPA8>3.0.CO;2-V
                9881527
                8c094c88-761b-4fe2-9140-6df563ccf87b
                © 1998

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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