Meningeal arterial patterns in great apes: implications for hominid vascular evolution

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1993 Sep;92(1):81-97. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330920107.


Arterial meningeal patterns were observed for 100 hemispheres from great ape endocasts (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo pygmaeus). Eight patterns emerged based on the relative contributions to the walls and dura mater of the middle part of the braincase of meningeal arteries that stem from two sources. These arteries enter the braincase through either the orbit (delivering blood from the internal carotid artery) or through the base of the middle cranial fossa (via the middle meningeal artery whose blood comes from the external carotid artery). The three genera of apes manifest different frequencies of the eight patterns, with orangutans highly dependent on orbital meningeal arteries at one extreme, and chimpanzees showing the greatest reliance on the middle meningeal artery at the other. As was the case in an earlier study of rhesus monkeys, there is a trend across the two genera of African apes for increased mean cranial capacity to be associated with increased reliance on the internal carotid artery for supplying the middle portion of the braincase. However, unlike the case for macaques, this trend does not reach statistical significance in African apes. Because it is rare for humans to manifest significant arterial contributions from the orbit to the middle cranial fossa, the comparative data on monkeys, apes, and humans suggest that, during the course of vascular evolution in Homo, the middle meningeal artery eventually took over supply of the entire middle cranial fossa. This hypothesis should be tested in the hominid fossil record. Earlier work on meningeal arterial patterns in apes has traditionally relied on Adachi's system that was determined from humans and focuses on the origin of the middle branch of the middle meningeal artery. As a result, the extensive orbital contributions to the middle portion of the braincase that characterize apes were not recognized and the eight patterns described in this paper were often erroneously assigned to the three patterns that adequately describe only humans. Adachi's system should therefore be abandoned for nonhuman primates and early hominids. A correct understanding of meningeal arterial evolution cannot be achieved until the orbital contributions to the meningeal arteries are recognized and incorporated into an evolutionary study that spans from apes to fossil hominids to living people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Fossils
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meningeal Arteries / anatomy & histology*