Surface facial modelling and allometry in relation to sexual dimorphism

Homo. 2012 Apr;63(2):81-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jchb.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Sexual dimorphism is responsible for a substantial part of human facial variability, the study of which is essential for many scientific fields ranging from evolution to special biomedical topics. Our aim was to analyse the relationship between size variability and shape facial variability of sexual traits in the young adult Central European population and to construct average surface models of adult males and females. The method of geometric morphometrics allowed not only the identification of dimorphic traits, but also the evaluation of static allometry and the visualisation of sexual facial differences. Facial variability in the studied sample was characterised by a strong relationship between facial size and shape of sexual dimorphic traits. Large size of face was associated with facial elongation and vice versa. Regarding shape sexual dimorphic traits, a wide, vaulted and high forehead in combination with a narrow and gracile lower face were typical for females. Variability in shape dimorphic traits was smaller in females compared to males. For female classification, shape sexual dimorphic traits are more important, while for males the stronger association is with face size. Males generally had a closer inter-orbital distance and a deeper position of the eyes in relation to the facial plane, a larger and wider straight nose and nostrils, and more massive lower face. Using pseudo-colour maps to provide a detailed schematic representation of the geometrical differences between the sexes, we attempted to clarify the reasons underlying the development of such differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Facies*
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Forehead / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic*
  • Nose / anatomy & histology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Young Adult