Toward Understanding the Mammalian Zygoma: Insights From Comparative Anatomy, Growth and Development, and Morphometric Analysis

Samuel Márquez, Anthony S. Pagano, Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Abigail Curtis, Bradley N. Delman, William Lawson, Jeffrey T. Laitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The zygoma, or jugum, is a cranial element that was present in Mesozoic tetrapods, well before the appearance of mammals. Although as an entity the zygoma is a primitive retention among mammals, it has assumed myriad configurations as this group diversified. As the zygoma is located at the intersection of the visual, respiratory, and masticatory apparatuses, it is potentially of great importance in systematic, phylogenetic, and functional studies focused on this region. For example, the facial component of the zygoma and its contribution to a postorbital bar (POB) appear to be relevant to the systematics of a number of mammalian subclades, and the formation of a bony postorbital septum (POS) that separates the orbit from the infratemporal fossa is unique to, and thus potentially phylogenetically significant for uniting anthropoid primates, while the zygoma itself appears to serve to resist tension and bending forces during mastication. In order to better understand the zygoma in the context of its contributions to the circumorbital region, we documented its morphological expression in specimens representing 10 orders of mammals. Since the presence of a POB and of a POS has long been used to justify uniting extant primates and anthropoid primates as respective clades, and because postorbital closure (POC) is morphologically more complex than a POB, we provide detail necessary to address these claims. Our taxically broad overview also allowed us to provide for the first time definitions of configurations that can be applied to future studies. Using a different, but also taxically broad sample of mammals, and of primates in particular, we performed two geometric morphometric analyses that were geared toward testing long-held interpretations of the functional role of the zygoma, especially with regard to mastication and in the context of orbital frontation (to which the zygoma contributes). Further, overall, zygomatic morphology tends not to scale with allometry, sexual dimorphism, or angle of orbital convergence, but it does contribute to unique patterns of intraspecies variation. Anat Rec, 300:76–151, 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-151
Number of pages76
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • anthropodea
  • geometrics morphometric
  • mammals
  • postorbital bar
  • zygoma


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