Three-dimensional form and function of the nasal cavity and nasopharynx in humans and chimpanzees.


Markus Bastir, Daniel Sanz-Prieto, Manuel Burgos


12 October 2021


The Anatomical Record



The facial differences between recent Pan troglodytes and Homo sapiens can be used as a proxy for the reduction of facial prognathism that happened during evolutionary transition between Australopithecines and early Homo. The projecting nasal morphology of Homo has been considered both a passive consequence of anatomical reorganization related to brain and integrated craniofacial evolution as well as an adaptation related to air-conditioning during physiological and behavioral shifts in human evolution. Yet, previous research suggested impaired air-conditioning in Homo challenging respiratory adaptations based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and airflow simulations. Here we improved CFD model at the inflow region and also carried out three-dimensional (3D) geometric morphometrics to address the hypothesis of impaired air-conditioning in humans and species differences in airway shape. With the new CFD model we simulated pressure, velocity, and temperature changes in airflow of six adult humans and six chimpanzees and analyzed 164 semi-landmarks of 10 humans and 10 chimpanzees for 3D size and shape comparisons. Our finding shows significantly different internal 3D nasal airways. Also, species means of pressure, velocity, and temperature differed statistically significantly. However, form-related differences in temperature exchanges seem subtle and may question adaptive disadvantages. We rather support a hypothesis of craniofacial changes in the Australopithecus-Homo transition that are related to brain evolution and craniofacial integration with facial and nasal modifications that contribute to maintain respiratory adaptations related to air conditioning.

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