Zygomaticomaxillary Morphology and Maxillary Sinus Form and Function: How Spatial Constraints Influence Pneumatization Patterns among Modern Humans

Scott D. Maddux, Lauren N. Butaric

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Previous research has suggested that the maxillary sinuses may act as “zones of accommodation” for the nasal region, minimizing the impact of climatic-related changes in nasal cavity breadth on surrounding skeletal structures. However, a recent study among modern human crania has identified that, in addition to nasal cavity breadth, sinus morphology also tracks lateral facial form, especially anterior-posterior positioning of the zygomatics. Here, we expand upon this previous study to further investigate these covariation patterns by employing three samples with distinct combinations of nasal and zygomatic morphologies: Northern Asians (n = 28); sub-Saharan Africans (n = 30); and Europeans (n = 29). For each cranium, 30 landmarks were digitized from CT-rendered models and subsequently assigned to either a midfacial or maxillary sinus “block.” Two block partial least squares (2B-PLS) analyses indicate that sinus morphology primarily reflects superior-inferior dimensions of the midface, rather than either nasal cavity breadth or zygomatic position. Specifically, individuals with relatively tall midfacial skeletons exhibit more inferiorly and laterally expanded sinuses compared to those with shorter midfaces. Further, separate across-group and within-group 2B-PLS analyses indicate that regional differences between samples primarily build upon a common pattern of midfacial and sinus covariation already present within each regional group. Allometry, while present, only explains a small portion of the midface-sinus covariation pattern. We conclude that previous findings of larger maxillary sinuses among cold-adapted individuals are not predominantly due to possession of relatively narrow nasal cavities, but to greater maxillary and zygomatic heights. Implications for sinus function and midfacial ontogeny are discussed. Anat Rec, 300:209–225, 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-225
Number of pages17
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • allometry
  • covariation
  • human variation
  • nasal cavity
  • paranasal sinuses


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