International Journal of Primatology Volume 28, Number 2, 483-492

Development of the Laryngeal Air Sac in Chimpanzees

Takeshi Nishimura, Akichika Mikami, Juri Suzuki, Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Abstract

Though many nonhuman primates possess a laryngeal sac, the great apes are unique in their great size. Though an enlarged sac probably arose in their common ancestor, its functional adaptations remain a matter of debate. Its development in extant great apes is likely to provide valuable information to clarify the issue. We used magnetic resonance imaging to examine the development of the laryngeal sac in 3 living chimpanzees, age 4 mo–5 yr, and identified 2 distinct growth phases of the sac. A gradual growth of the sac in early infancy results in a configuration so that it occupies the ventral region of the neck; many adult nonhominoid primates having a sac show the configuration. The subsequent rapid expansion of the sac in late infancy causes the final configuration in chimpanzees, wherein the sac expands into the pectoral, clavicular, and axillary regions. The latter phase possibly arose at latest in the last common ancestor of extant great apes and contributed to the evolution of the enlarged sac, despite the later evolutionary diversification in adult sac anatomy and growth. As many studies have advocated, the enlarged sac probably plays a role in vocalization in adults. However, physiological modifications in the laryngeal region during infancy are likely to provide valuable information to evaluate the functional adaptations of the enlarged sac in the great apes.

Keywords

Magnetic resonance imaging, Pan troglodytes, Ventricular sac, Vocalization

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Nishimura T, Mikami A, Suzuki J, Matsuzawa T (2007) Development of the Laryngeal Air Sac in Chimpanzees International Journal of Primatology Volume 28, Number 2, 483-492 , doi: 10.1007/s10764-007-9127-7