Mapping bone cell distributions to assess ontogenetic origin of primate midfacial form

Timothy D. Smith, Ethan S. Kentzel, Jayna M. Cunningham, Amanda E. Bruening, Kathryn D. Jankord, Sara J. Trupp, Christopher J. Bonar, Susan J. Rehorek, Valerie B. Deleon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Midfacial reduction in primates has been explained as a byproduct of other growth patterns, especially the convergent orbits. This is at once an evolutionary and developmental explanation for relatively short snouts in most modern primates. Here, we use histological sections of perinatal nonhuman primates (tamarin, tarsier, loris) to investigate how orbital morphology emerges during ontogeny in selected primates compared to another euarchontan (Tupaia glis). We annotated serial histological sections for location of osteoclasts or osteoblasts, and used these to create three-dimensional "modeling maps" showing perinatal growth patterns of the facial skeleton. In addition, in one specimen we transferred annotations from histological sections to CT slices, to create a rotatable 3D volume that shows orbital modeling. Our findings suggest that growth in the competing orbital and neurocranial functional matrices differs among species, influencing modeling patterns. Distinctions among species are observed in the frontal bone, at a shared interface between the endocranial fossa and the orbit. The medial orbital wall is extensively resorptive in primates, whereas the medial orbit is generally depositional in Tupaia. As hypothesized, the orbital soft tissues encroach on available interorbital space. However, eye size cannot, by itself, explain the extent of reduction of the olfactory recess. In Loris, the posterior portion of medial orbit differed from the other primates. It showed evidence of outward drift where the olfactory bulb increased in cross-sectional area. We suggest the olfactory bulbs are significant to orbit position in strepsirrhines, influencing an expanded interorbital breadth at early stages of development. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:424-435, 2014.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-435
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014


  • bone modeling
  • craniofacial
  • growth
  • nasal
  • orbital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Anatomy
  • Medicine(all)


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