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Developmental and evolutionary significance of the zygomatic bone

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    Rights statement: © 2016 The Authors The Anatomical Record Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1616–1630
JournalThe Anatomical record
Issue number12
Early online date15 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Nov 2016


The zygomatic bone is derived evolutionarily from the orbital series. In most modern mammals the zygomatic bone forms a large part of the face and usually serves as a bridge that connects the facial skeleton to the neurocranium. Our aim is to provide information on the contribution of the zygomatic bone to variation in midfacial protrusion using three samples; humans, domesticated dogs, and monkeys. In each case, variation in midface protrusion is a heritable trait produced by one of three classes of transmission: localized dysmorphology associated with single gene dysfunction, selective breeding, or long-term evolution from a common ancestor. We hypothesize that the shape of the zygomatic bone reflects its role in stabilizing the connection between facial skeleton and neurocranium and consequently, changes in facial protrusion are more strongly reflected by the maxilla and premaxilla. Our geometric morphometric analyses support our hypothesis suggesting that the shape of the zygomatic bone has less to do with facial protrusion. By morphometrically dissecting the zygomatic bone we have determined a degree of modularity among parts of the midfacial skeleton suggesting that these components have the ability to vary independently and thus can evolve differentially. From these purely morphometric data, we propose that the neural crest cells that are fated to contribute to the zygomatic bone experience developmental cues that distinguish them from the maxilla and premaxilla. The spatiotemporal and molecular identity of the cues that impart zygoma progenitors with their identity remains an open question that will require alternative data sets.

    Research areas

  • midfacial retrusion, midfacial hypoplasia, prognathism, FGFR-related craniosynostosis syndromes, domesticated dogs, New World monkeys, Old World monkeys

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