UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Comparative Morphology of the Hominin and African Ape Hyoid Bone, a Possible Marker of the Evolution of Speech

Steele, J; Clegg, M; Martelli, S; (2013) Comparative Morphology of the Hominin and African Ape Hyoid Bone, a Possible Marker of the Evolution of Speech. Human Biology , 85 (5) pp. 639-672. 10.3378/027.085.0501. Green open access

[img]
Preview
Text
Martelli_comparative_morphology_of_the_hominin_and_african.pdf

Download (2MB) | Preview

Abstract

This study examines the morphology of the hyoid in three closely related species, Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes, and Gorilla gorilla. Differences and similarities between the hyoids of these species are characterized and used to interpret the morphology and affinities of the Dikika A. afarensis, Kebara 2 Neanderthal, and other fossil hominin hyoid bones. Humans and African apes are found to have distinct hyoid morphologies. In humans the maximum width across the distal tips of the articulated greater horns is usually slightly greater than the maximum length (distal greater horn tip to most anterior point of the hyoid body in the midline). A different pattern is usually found in the African ape hyoids, which have much greater maximum lengths. In humans, the hyoid body is also much more anteroposteriorly shallow in proportion to its height and width, and this is true for all age classes. The Dikika australopithecine hyoid body proportions are chimpanzeelike. A discriminant function analysis, using a larger subadult sample from the three extant species than that reported by Alemseged et al. (2006), confirms this finding. The Kebara hyoid dimensions (body alone, and articulated body and greater horns) are almost all within the observed range for human hyoids. Discriminant functions clearly distinguish human from African ape hyoids and classify the Kebara 2 hyoid as human (confirming the finding of Arensburg et al. 1989). Our virtual dissection of a chimpanzee air sac system shows its subhyoid extension into the dorsal hyoid body. Following Alemseged et al. (2006), the expanded bulla characteristic of the African ape and australopithecine hyoid body is therefore interpreted as reflecting the presence of such a laryngeal air sac extension. Its absence in the human, Neanderthal, and H. heidelbergensis (Atapuerca SH) hyoids implicates the loss of the laryngeal air sacs as a derived Neanderthal and modern human trait, which evolved no later than the middle Pleistocene. If, as has been argued by de Boer (2012), the loss of the air sac helped to enhance perceptual discrimination of speech sounds, then this derived hyoid morphology can be added to the list of fossil markers of the capacity for speech.

Type: Article
Title: Comparative Morphology of the Hominin and African Ape Hyoid Bone, a Possible Marker of the Evolution of Speech
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3378/027.085.0501
Publisher version: http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.3378/027.085.0501
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 BioOne All rights reserved This version is the version of record . For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Anthropology, Biology, Genetics & Heredity, Hyoid, Vocal Tract, Air Sac, Dikika, Neanderthal, Language Origins, Laryngeal Air Sac, Breathing Control, Primates, Language, Physiology, Age
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1427813
Downloads since deposit
174Downloads
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item