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The functional significance of facial differences among recent hominins

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ann Van Baelen.

Significant and sometimes dramatic changes in craniofacial skeletal form occurred during hominin evolution. These changes are often explained in terms of differences in diet, lifestyle and social structure. In order to test functional hypotheses, functional data from different morphs are required. Recent advances in methods for virtual functional simulation have revolutionised our ability to predict function from fossilised skeletal remains, but how reliable are these approaches and what are their limits?

In this presentation the applicability of multibody dynamics, finite element analysis and geometric morphometrics to investigations of how cranial form and function interact will be reviewed with a focus on the benefits and limitations of these approaches. This review will be illustrated by a series of studies of fossil hominins and other primates that have cast new light on, among other things, the impact of variations in facial form on the ability of the cranium to resist biting and the mechanical significance of cranial sinuses and browridges. The presentation will end with a consideration of future prospects in this rapidly emerging and changing area of enquiry.

This talk is part of the Biological Anthropology Seminar Series series.

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