Incidence, number and topography of Wormian bones in Greek adult dry skulls

Folia Morphol (Warsz). 2019;78(2):359-370. doi: 10.5603/FM.a2018.0078. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


Background: Wormian bones (WBs) are irregularly shaped bones formed from independent ossification centres found along cranial sutures and fontanelles. Their incidence varies among different populations and they constitute an anthropo- logical marker. Precise mechanism of formation is unknown and being under the control of genetic background and environmental factors. The aim of the current study is to investigate the incidence of WBs presence, number and topographical distribution according to gender and side in Greek adult dry skulls.

Materials and methods: All sutures and fontanelles of 166 Greek adult dry skulls were examined for the presence, topography and number of WBs. One hundred and nineteen intact and 47 horizontally craniotomised skulls were examined for WBs presence on either side of the cranium, both exocranially and intracranially.

Results: One hundred and twenty-four (74.7%) skulls had WBs. No difference was detected between the incidence of WBs, gender and age. Sutures and fon- tanelles located in neurocranium showed a higher incidence of WBs, contrariwise to orbital sutures that indicated a low incidence. WBs most commonly located in the lambdoid suture (44.6%), followed in order of frequency by the coronal suture (39.8%), asterion (21% on the left and 15.3% on the right side) and parie- tomastoid suture (15.1% on the left and 13.9% on the right side). Other sutures with WBs were the occipitomastoid, sagittal, squamosal, zygomaticosphenoid, metopic, frontonasal and frontozygomatic. Regarding the skull fontanelles, WBs were found at pterion, posterior and anterior fontanelles.

Conclusions: The current study highlights a high incidence of WBs in a Greek population, indicating racial variation. The in depth knowledge of exact location, frequency and number of WBs is essential for clinicians intervening in the skull area, anthropologists and forensic surgeons investigating child abuse cases.

Keywords: Wormian bones; deformation; fontanelle; skull asymmetry; sutural bones; syndrome; variation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cranial Sutures / abnormalities
  • Female
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skull / abnormalities*
  • Young Adult