The Origin and Evolution of Mammalian Head Muscles with Special Emphasis on the Facial Myology of Primates and Modern Humans

  • Rui DiogoEmail author
  • Vance Powell
Part of the Fascinating Life Sciences book series (FLS)


In this chapter we focus mainly on from where the head and neck muscles arose and how they evolved within the three major extant mammalian clades: monotremes, marsupials, and placentals. Within placentals, we pay special attention to primates, the group that includes our species, Homo sapiens. In fact, primates are an emblematic case study to show that, within the fascinating morphological diversity of hard and soft tissues of the head, including the jaws and the muscles that move them, the most evolvable and diverse ones are a group of muscles that is characteristic of, and played a crucial evolutionary role in, the Mammalia: the muscles of facial expression. As an example of mammalian diversity and also of an issue that is fundamental for the evolution of our own species as well as to illustrate the highly complex linkage between the evolutionary history of muscles, external characters, behavior, and ecology, we briefly comment on the relationships between facial expression, color patterns, mobility, and social group size during primate and human evolution. Furthermore, we also provide comments about data that have been made available in developmental studies on the ontogeny of the mammalian head muscles as an example of how developmental and evo-devo data can be combined with comparative anatomy in order to provide a more integrative understanding of the evolutionary history of the mammalian head.


Human Facial Expression Behavior Evo-devo 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnatomyHoward UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.CASHP, Department of AnthropologyGeorge Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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