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The evolutionary role of modularity and integration in the hominid cranium
Author: Mitteroecker, Philipp and Bookstein, Fred
Journal: Evolution
Volume: 62
Year: 2008
Pages: 943—958

Patterns of morphological integration and modularity among shape features emerge from genetic and developmental factors with varying pleiotropic effects. Factors or processes affecting morphology only locally may respond to selection more easily than common factors that may lead to deleterious side effects and hence are expected to be more conserved. We briefly review evidence for such global factors in primate cranial development as well as for local factors constrained to either the face or the neurocranium. In a sample comprising 157 crania of Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes, and Gorilla gorilla, we statistically estimated common and local factors of shape variation from Procrustes coordinates of 347 landmarks and semilandmarks. Common factors with pleiotropic effects on both the face and the neurocranium account for a large amount of shape variation, but mainly by extension or truncation of otherwise conserved developmental pathways. Local factors (modular shape characteristics) have more degrees of freedom for evolutionary change than mere ontogenetic scaling. Cranial shape is similarly integrated during development in all three species, but human evolution involves dissociation among several characteristics. The dissociation has probably been achieved by evolutionary alterations and by the novel emergence of local factors affecting characteristics that are controlled at the same time by the common factors.