Navigation Links
Human skull study causes evolutionary headache

Scientists studying a unique collection of human skulls have shown that changes to the skull shape thought to have occurred independently through separate evolutionary events may have actually precipitated each other.

Researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Barcelona examined 390 skulls from the Austrian town of Hallstatt and found evidence that the human skull is highly integrated, meaning variation in one part of the skull is linked to changes throughout the skull.

The Austrian skulls are part of a famous collection kept in the Hallstatt Catholic Church ossuary; local tradition dictates that the remains of the town's dead are buried but later exhumed to make space for future burials. The skulls are also decorated with paintings and, crucially, bear the name of the deceased. The Barcelona team made measurements of the skulls and collected genealogical data from the church's records of births, marriages and deaths, allowing them to investigate the inheritance of skull shape.

The team tested whether certain parts of the skull the face, the cranial base and the skull vault or brain case changed independently, as anthropologists have always believed, or were in some way linked. The scientists simulated the shift of the foramen magnum (where the spinal cord enters the skull) associated with upright walking; the retraction of the face, thought to be linked to language development and perhaps chewing; and the expansion and rounding of the top of the skull, associated with brain expansion. They found that, rather than being separate evolutionary events, changes in one part of the brain would facilitate and even drive changes in the other parts.

"We found that genetic variation in the skull is highly integrated, so if selection were to favour a shape change in a particular part of the skull, there would be a response involving changes throughout the skull," said Dr Chris Klingenberg, in Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences

"We were able to use the genetic information to simulate what would happen if selection were to favour particular shape changes in the skull. As those changes, we used the key features that are derived in humans, by comparison with our ancestors: the shift of the foramen magnum associated with the transition to bipedal posture, the retraction of the face, the flexion of the cranial base, and, finally, the expansion of the braincase.

"As much as possible, we simulated each of these changes as a localised shape change limited to a small region of the skull. For each of the simulations, we obtained a predicted response that included not only the change we selected for, but also all the others. All those features of the skull tended to change as a whole package. This means that, in evolutionary history, any of the changes may have facilitated the evolution of the others."

Lead author Dr Neus Martnez-Abadas, from the University of Barcelona's, added: "This study has important implications for inferences on human evolution and suggests the need for a reinterpretation of the evolutionary scenarios of the skull in modern humans."

Contact: Aeron Haworth
University of Manchester

Related biology news :

1. Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics celebrates 10th birthday by presenting major gifts to human health
2. Scientists identify novel inhibitor of human microRNA
3. During exercise, the human brain shifts into high gear on alternative energy
4. Complete Genomics launches, becomes worlds first large-scale human genome sequencing company
5. Research shows Brazilian acai berry antioxidants absorbed by human body
6. Study: Bird diversity lessens human exposure to West Nile Virus
7. Human Microbiome Project awards funds for technology development, data analysis and ethical research
8. launches new animated 3-D views of human body in action
9. Gene with probable role in human susceptibility to pulmonary tuberculosis identified
10. The American Society of Human Genetics hosts 58th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia
11. Genetic based human diseases are an ancient evolutionary legacy
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/2/2016)... LONDON , June 2, 2016 ... has awarded the 44 million US Dollar project, ... Security Embossed Vehicle Plates including Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure ... world leader in the production and implementation of Identity Management ... in January, however Decatur was selected ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... 20, 2016  VoiceIt is excited to announce ... By working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass ... and VoicePass take slightly different approaches to voice ... security and usability. ... new partnership. "This marketing and technology ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... BANGALORE, India , April 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), and ... global partnership that will provide end customers with ... banking and payment services.      (Logo: ... area for financial services, but it also plays a fundamental ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... -- Regular discussions on a range of subjects including policies, debt ... said Poloz. Speaking at a lecture to the ... pointed to the country,s inflation target, which is set by ... "In certain areas there needs to ... goals, why not sit down and address strategy together?" ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona combed ... pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of a new article on the Surviving ... signposts in the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can help ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016   Boston ... of novel compounds designed to target cancer stemness ... has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from the ... treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) ... inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Houston Methodist ... the Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as their ... agreement, Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, ... connectivity with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... the Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring Houston ...
Breaking Biology Technology: