Functional morphology of the asterionic region in extant hominoids and fossil hominids

William H. Kimbel, Yoel Rak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Asterionic sutural patterns in Plio‐Pleistocene hominid crania have never been examined in detail. We present an analysis of this anatomical region in Australopithecus and Homo and relate different sutural patterns to functional changes in the masticatory apparatus. The great apes and A. afarensis share the common adult higher primate sutural pattern referred to as the “asterionic notch,” which develops in response to the hypertrophy of posterior temporalis muscle fibers and the consequent formation of compound temporal/nuchal crests. This sutural configuration also appears to be present on the early Homo cranium KNM‐ER 1805. In contrast, adult male A. boisei crania exhibit a unique pattern where the temporal squama overlaps the parietal which, in turn, overlaps the par mastoidea and the upper scale of the occipital bone. We relate this arrangement to the need to reinforce the rear of a thin‐walled braincase against the net tensile forces exerted by the temporalis and nuchal muscles. The common juvenile hominoid edge‐to‐edge asterionic articulation is maintained in adult A. africanus, A. robustus, female A. boisei, and most Homo crania. We discuss the latter pattern in regard to anterior temporalis hypertrophy in A. africanus, A. robustus, and A. boisei and to craniofacial paedomorphosis in Homo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-54
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • Asterionic region
  • Australopithecus
  • Cranium
  • Hominoidea
  • Temporalis muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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