Programmes > Par auteur > Albessard-Ball Lou

Studying the joint evolution of the skull and brain in Homo species
Lou Albessard-Ball  1@  , Antoine Balzeau  1, 2@  , Stanley Durrleman  3@  , Dominique Grimaud-Hervé  1@  
1 : Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle  (MNHN)
CNRS : UMR7194, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN), Université de Perpignan Via Domitia
2 : Royal Museum for Central Africa [Tervuren]  (RMCA)
3 : Aramis lab
Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC : UMRS 1127, Inserm : U1127, CNRS : UMR7225, ICM, Paris

Cranial features have long been been favoured by palaeoanthropologists as clues to recons-
truct the story of human evolution. The relative abundance of skulls in the fossil record, as
well as the high number of diagnostic features which can be observed on them, makes them
robust objects of enquiry. Perhaps equally important in the history of studying fossil crania is
the consideration that the development of large brains and of complex cognition is among the
major characteristics of human evolution. As "being human" means thinking like a human,
the evolution of brains in fossil hominins and in Homo sapiens draws considerable attention.
The study of endocasts - their volume, general morphology, convolutional patterns, and the
development of cognitive areas recognised in extant humans - may have little to tell us in
terms of function, but it does allow for the identication of derived characters with potential
phylogenic and evolutionary value. Because of the high morphological integration between
the outer vault of the skull and the endocranium, it is diffcult to list reliable independent
diagnostic features for these two aspects of the head. The pressures on skull morphology may
relate to environmental changes, diet, modications of the sensory organs, brain development,
or the use of language, whereas the brain undergoes reorganisations which may be due to the
development of cognitive areas. There is however very little literature concerning the joint
evolution of the skull and endocast. We will discuss this topic through examples including
morphometrical data derived from a sample of extant and archaeological Homo sapiens, and
fossil hominins (Homo erectus, Neandertals, Mid-Pleistocene Homo specimens). Thanks to
these data, we will be able to discuss the relationship between the morphologies of the skull's
outer vault and the endocranium throughout the evolution of the genus Homo.

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