The ontogeny of human temporal bone pneumatization has been well studied from both comparative and clinical perspectives. While a difference in the extent of air cell distribution has been noted in our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, the processes responsible have been relatively unexplored. To examine these processes, a large, age-graded series of hominoid skulls was radiographed and the progress of pneumatization recorded. Additionally, a subsample of 30 chimpanzees and 12 gorillas was subjected to high-resolution CT scanning. Neonatal specimens show a well-developed mastoid antrum, as well as a capacious hypotympanum extending into the petrous apex. In African apes, as in humans, the mastoid antrum serves as the focus for air cell expansion into the mastoid and immediately adjacent areas. In chimpanzees and gorillas, however, a pronounced lateral structure, described as the squamous antrum, serves as the focus of pneumatization for anterior structures such as the squamous and zygomatic. The diminution of this structure in Homo sapiens explains the difference in air cell distribution in these regions.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.