Inheritance of sutural pattern at the pterion in rhesus monkey skulls

Qian Wang, Lynne A. Opperman, Lorena M. Havill, David S. Carlson, Paul C. Dechow

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    52 Scopus citations


    Five of the bones that characteristically comprise the cranial vault articulate on the lateral aspect of the skull at or near the cephalometric landmark referred to as the pterion. The pattern of articulation in the sutures associated with these bones varies among and within primate species and has been used as a criterion for classification in taxonomic studies, as well as in archeological and forensic studies. Within species, the sutural patterns found within the region of the pterion have remarkable consistency, which lead to the hypothesis that these patterns have a genetic basis. Sutural pattern variations were investigated at the pterion in 422 skulls from 66 rhesus monkey families with known genealogies from the long-standing colony on Cayo Santiago. Four specific types of articulation patterns were recorded. The results demonstrated that the most common suture pattern at the pterion of Cayo Santiago rhesus monkeys (86%; similar to that seen in some other anthropoid species but not humans and some apes) was characterized by an articulation between the temporal bone and parietal bone. Articulation between the sphenoid and parietal bones (type SP) accounted for 14% of the specimens and was concentrated in a dozen families. Mothers with the SP phenotype had a high incidence of offspring with SP phenotypes. Most non-SP mothers having SP offspring had siblings or family members from previous generations with the SP type. This is the first study to examine variation in sutural patterns at the pterion in pedigrees. Variation of sutural patterns shows familial aggregation, suggesting that this variation is heritable. Future work will be focused on defining the inheritance patterns of variation at the pterion, with the ultimate objective of identifying the specific genes involved and their mechanism of action.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1042-1049
    Number of pages8
    JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number10
    StatePublished - Oct 2006


    • Cranial sutures
    • Genetics
    • Pedigree
    • Primate
    • Variation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anatomy
    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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