Frontal sinuses and human evolution

Antoine Balzeau*, Lou Albessard-Ball, Anna Maria Kubicka, Andréa Filippo, Amélie Beaudet, Elena Santos, Thibault Bienvenu, Juan-Luis Arsuaga, Antonis Bartsiokas, Lee Berger, José María Bermúdez de Castro, Michel Brunet, Kristian J Carlson, Joan Daura, Vassilis G Gorgoulis, Frederick E Grine, Katerina Harvati, John Hawks, Andy Herries, Jean-Jacques HublinJiaming Hui, Rachel Ives, Josephine A Joordens, Yousuke Kaifu, Mirsini Kouloukoussa, Baptiste Léger, David Lordkipanidze, Ann Margvelashvili, Jesse Martin, María Martinón-Torres, Hila May, Aurélien Mounier, Anton du Plessis, Todd Rae, Carolin Röding, Montserrat Sanz, Patrick Semal, Dominic Stratford, Chris Stringer, Mirriam Tawane, Heiko Temming, Evangelia Tsoukala, João Zilhão, Bernhard Zipfel, Laura T Buck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The frontal sinuses are cavities inside the frontal bone located at the junction between the face and the cranial vault and close to the brain. Despite a long history of study, understanding of their origin and variation through evolution is limited. This work compares most hominin species' holotypes and other key individuals with extant hominids. It provides a unique and valuable perspective of the variation in sinuses position, shape, and dimensions based on a simple and reproducible methodology. We also observed a covariation between the size and shape of the sinuses and the underlying frontal lobes in hominin species from at least the appearance of Homo erectus. Our results additionally undermine hypotheses stating that hominin frontal sinuses were directly affected by biomechanical constraints resulting from either chewing or adaptation to climate. Last, we demonstrate their substantial potential for discussions of the evolutionary relationships between hominin species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)eabp9767
Number of pages10
JournalScience advances
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


  • Boisei
  • Broken-hill
  • Fossil
  • Homo-sapiens
  • Insights
  • Lake turkana
  • Middle pleistocene
  • Morphology
  • Paranasal sinuses
  • Pneumatization


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