Acta Anthropologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (02): 193-217.doi: 10.16359/j.1000-3193/AAS.2020.0016

• Research Articles •     Next Articles

Canine fossa and evolution of the human mid-facial bones

Francesc RIBOT Trafí1(), Mario GARCÍA Bartual2, Alfredo José ALTAMIRANO Enciso3, Qian WANG4()   

  1. 1. Museo Municipal de Prehistoriay Paleontología Josep Gibert, Calle Las Tiendas, sn, 18858 Orce, Granada, Spain
    2. Museo Paleontológico de Elche and Fundación CIDARIS, Plaza de San Juan, 03203 Elche, Alicante, Spain
    3. Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima 15081, Peru
    4. Department of Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University College of Dentistry, 3302 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246, U.S.A.
  • Received:2019-08-11 Revised:2019-12-02 Online:2022-04-15 Published:2022-04-13
  • Contact: Qian WANG;


The canine fossa is an important feature in the facial skeleton of many hominins, including modern humans. However, its phylogenetic significance is debated. Some researchers consider it as a plesiomorphic characteristic in a generalized face that, with some exceptions, is found in both extinct and extant great apes and in the hominins. Others consider that the canine fossa is a derived characteristic only found in Homo sapiens and its direct ancestors, and that it is related to an arched zygomatic-alveolar crest (ZAC). However, this relationship is not always fulfilled, and in Homo sapiens, there is a notable variability: An arched ZAC with the presence or absence of a canine fossa, and straight oblique ZAC with presence or absence of a canine fossa. In this sense, we hypothesize that the canine fossa is related to the degree of anterior extension of the maxillary sinus and that the morphology of the ZAC is related to the degree of lateral extension of said sinus. During the hominine evolution, the canine fossa has undergone different transformations, such as the maxillary furrow (Australopithecus africanus, Paranthropus robustus), maxillary fossula (P. robustus), and the sulcus maxillaris (Homo ergaster), or has been obliterated (Paranthropus aethiopicus, Paranthropus boisei, Kenyanthropus platyops, Homo rudolfensis). In the taxa where it has been obliterated, the mechanism of obliteration is different in the hominins of the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene compared to those of the Middle Pleistocene (Homo heidelbergensis/rhodesiensis, Homo nenaderthalensis). The facial morphology of H. rhodesiensis would exclude it from the line evolving to H. sapiens.

Key words: Facial skeleton, Midface, Infraorbital plate, Hominin evolution, Homo sapiens

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