The crescent of foramina in Australopithecus afarensis and other early hominids

Yoel Rak*, William H. Kimbel, Donald C. Johanson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The crescent of foramina of the cerebral surface of the sphenoid bone (superior orbital fissure, foramen rotundum, foramen ovale, foramen spinosum) differs morphologically in the African great apes and modern humans. New discoveries of Australopithecus afarensis at Hadar, Ethiopia, draw attention to the similarity of the crescent, particularly the 'foramen' shape of the superior orbital fissure and its close proximity to the foramen rotundum, in this species, the African apes, and many other primates. Australopithecus africanus also shows this primitive pattern, whereas 'robust' australopiths and humans share a configuration in which a true, laterally extended superior orbital fissure intervenes between the greater and lesser wings of the sphenoid and a broad bridge of bone separates the fissure from the foramen rotundum. This shared morphology may be added to the list of putative 'robust' australopith-Homo synapomorphies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1996


  • Australopithecus
  • Foramen rotundum
  • Hadar
  • Sphenoid bone
  • Superior orbital fissure


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