The evolution of cranial base and face in Cercopithecoidea and Hominoidea: Modularity and morphological integration

Antonio Profico*, Paolo Piras, Costantino Buzi, Fabio Di Vincenzo, Flavio Lattarini, Marina Melchionna, Alessio Veneziano, Pasquale Raia, Giorgio Manzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The evolutionary relationship between the base and face of the cranium is a major topic of interest in primatology. Such areas of the skull possibly respond to different selective pressures. Yet, they are often said to be tightly integrated. In this paper, we analyzed shape variability in the cranial base and the facial complex in Cercopithecoidea and Hominoidea. We used a landmark-based approach to single out the effects of size (evolutionary allometry), morphological integration, modularity, and phylogeny (under Brownian motion) on skull shape variability. Our results demonstrate that the cranial base and the facial complex exhibit different responses to different factors, which produces a little degree of morphological integration between them. Facial shape variation appears primarily influenced by body size and sexual dimorphism, whereas the cranial base is mostly influenced by functional factors. The different adaptations affecting the two modules suggest they are best studied as separate and independent units, and that—at least when dealing with Catarrhines—caution must be posed with the notion of strong cranial integration that is commonly invoked for the evolution of their skull shape.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22721
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • covariance ratio
  • cranial integration
  • geometric
  • morphometrics
  • phylogenetic signal
  • primates

Cite this