Brief communication: The timing of spheno-occipital fusion in hominoids

Katharine L. Balolia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The degree of spheno-occipital fusion has been used to assign a relative age to dentally mature hominoid cranial specimens. However, a recent study of captive individuals (Poe: Am J Phys Anthropol 144 (2011) 162-165) concluded that fusion of the sphenooccipital suture in great ape taxa is of little utility for aging dentally mature individuals. In this contribution, I use dentally mature samples of extant hominoid taxa (Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus and Hylobates lar) to investigate a) the temporal relationship between spheno-occipital fusion and dental maturity, b) whether there is an association between the degree of sphenooccipital fusion and relative age, c) whether there are differences in relative timing of spheno-occipital fusion between taxa, and d) whether there are sex differences in the relative timing of spheno-occipital fusion. Results suggest that a) a substantial proportion of dentally mature wild-shot chimpanzee, gorilla and orang-utans have unfused or partially fused spheno-occipital synchondoses, b) there is an association between the degree of spheno-occipital fusion and age, c) there are interspecific differences in the timing of spheno-occipital fusion, and d) there are significant sex differences in sphenooccipital fusion in chimpanzees, orang-utans and gibbons. Thus, contrary to previous work, degree of sphenooccipital fusion is a potentially useful indicator of relative maturity, especially in great ape taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-140
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


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