Predicting primate tongue morphology based on geometrical skull matching. A first step towards an application on fossil hominins

PLoS Comput Biol. 2024 Jan 22;20(1):e1011808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1011808. eCollection 2024 Jan.


As part of a long-term research project aiming at generating a biomechanical model of a fossil human tongue from a carefully designed 3D Finite Element mesh of a living human tongue, we present a computer-based method that optimally registers 3D CT images of the head and neck of the living human into similar images of another primate. We quantitatively evaluate the method on a baboon. The method generates a geometric deformation field which is used to build up a 3D Finite Element mesh of the baboon tongue. In order to assess the method's ability to generate a realistic tongue from bony structure information alone, as would be the case for fossil humans, its performance is evaluated and compared under two conditions in which different anatomical information is available: (1) combined information from soft-tissue and bony structures; (2) information from bony structures alone. An Uncertainty Quantification method is used to evaluate the sensitivity of the transformation to two crucial parameters, namely the resolution of the transformation grid and the weight of a smoothness constraint applied to the transformation, and to determine the best possible meshes. In both conditions the baboon tongue morphology is realistically predicted, evidencing that bony structures alone provide enough relevant information to generate soft tissue.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Fossils
  • Hominidae*
  • Humans
  • Papio
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging
  • Tongue / diagnostic imaging

Grants and funding

This work is a production of the members of the team "Origins of speech" hosted at Sorbonne University - Institut des Sciences du Calcul et des Données. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.