Human skull is highly integrated, says study

Human skull is highly integrated, says study

In fact, a team from the Universities of Manchester and Barcelona, studying a unique collection of human skulls, have shown that changes to skull shape thought to have occurred independently through separate evolutionary events may have precipitated each other, the ‘Evolution’ journal reported.

For their study, the researchers examined 390 skulls from the Austrian town of Hallstatt and found evidence that the human skull is highly integrated, meaning variation in one part of the skull is linked to changes throughout the skull.

The Austrian skulls are part of a famous collection kept in the Hallstatt Catholic Church ossuary; the skulls are also decorated with paintings and, crucially, bear the name of the deceased. The Barcelona team made measurements of the skulls and collected genealogical data from the church’s records of births, marriages and deaths, allowing them to investigate the inheritance of skull shape.

The team tested whether certain parts of the skull — the face, the cranial base and the skull vault or brain case — changed independently, as anthropologists have always believed, or were in some way linked.

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