What is Bahramdipity? How is it Analogous to Harassment During Research at Workplace?

“Autoritätsdusel ist der größte Feind der Wahrheit.” © Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

  1. “The stupor of authority is the greatest enemy  of truth.”
  2. “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” [https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Authority]

Source: Einstein, letters. On Jost Winteler from July 8, 1901

He said that before there was Biotech.Anonymous, 1997.

Bahramdipity is derived directly from Bahram Gur [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahram_V] as characterised in the “The Three Princes of Serendip”. It describes the suppression of serendipitous discoveries or research results by powerful individuals. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serendipity]


Egomania is also known as an obsessive preoccupation with one’s self and applies to someone who follows their own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation. Someone suffering from this extreme egocentric focus is an egomaniac. (Wikipedia)


Smart Workplace: Managing Harassment & Discrimination

Managing Harassment & Discrimination

Bahramdipity the suppression of a discovery, sometimes a serendipitous discovery, by the often- egomaniacal act of a more powerful individual who does cruelly punish, not merely disdain, a person (or persons) of lesser power and little renown who demonstrates sagacity, perspicacity, and truthfulness (From Bahram of Persia, as characterized in the fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip.)

Crime and Punishment in Tudor and Stuart times

Crime and Punishments in the Times of Tudor

Tudor Crime and Punishment

The Three Princes of Serendip is based on the life of Bahram V Gur, King of Persia (ca. 420- 440 A.D.) as described in Firdausi’s epic Shahnamah (ca. 1010 A.D.) and derivative works.

Variously transliterated as Beramo, Behramo, Vahram and others, Behram was the name of several ancient Persian kings who, in their time, were each referred to as the “king of the kings”. Cammann reports that, according to the German scholar Theodor Benfey, Bahram “must surely be Bahram Gur, the Sasanian king Varhran V, who reigned from A.D 420 to 440”

[Suppression of scientific research: Bahramdipity and Nulltiple scientific discoveries.
Toby J. Sommer PhD Science and Engineering Ethics 2001, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 77-104]

Serendipity has been a popular theme in the literature of science. Many important scientific discoveries have been made serendipitously or, in the terminology of Roberts [Roberts, R. M. (1989) Serendipity; Accidental Discoveries in Science. John Wiley & Sons, New York], pseudoserendipitously. Serendip is the ancient name for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and was the homeland of the ‘Three Princes’ whose adventures are told in the fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip”. Horace Walpole came upon a translation of the tale and it inspired him to coin the term serendipity in a letter to Sir Horace Mann in 1754.

Several categories of abuse can arise from difficult research situations. Sociologists of science have examined numerous interesting cases. One particularly prominent form of abuse occurs when a graduate student or research associate cannot produce the desired results, makes an undesired serendipitous discovery, or unintentionally finds flaws in prior work. Many principal investigators  (PIs)/Gurus/Teachers/Consultants/Faculty are disappointed to receive such information and do not always treat the messenger kindly. Extreme pressure to obtain what is desired or expected insidiously degrades the scientific ethics and ideals of lower-ranking colleagues, sometimes to the breaking point.


A summary [T.G. Remer, Ed., Serendipity and the Three Princes of Serendip; From the Peregrinaggio of 1557, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.] of the first and most widely told adventure of the three princes characterises King Bahram, their “host.” While the princes are wandering in the desert, a merchant asks them if they have seen his missing camel. Although the princes insist that they have not, they describe the camel so precisely that the merchant suspects them of camel theft. When they arrive in Persia, he has them arrested. When they’re brought before the king, Bahram inquires if the merchant’s tale is true; they proudly acknowledge their cleverness in identifying the missing camel without ever having seen it. Without further inquiry, Bahram finds them guilty and sentences them to death.

Then Bahram explains, “Although I am inclined more toward clemency than severity, nevertheless I have decided to let you die shamefully if you are unable to produce the camel.” [T.G. Remer, Ed., Serendipity and the Three Princes of Serendip; From the Peregrinaggio of 1557, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965, page 62.]

Many contemporary scientific “bahrams” are also generally given to such generous and forgiving self-characterization and to grant such dispensations if their associates are “unable to produce the [desired results].”

While the princes are marched through the streets to receive their unjust due, a citizen calls out to the camel merchant that he has seen the missing camel wandering lost in the desert. Suddenly aware of the innocence and truthfulness of the three princes, the merchant intercedes to prevent their execution and seek their pardon.

The princes find salvation by the chance appearance of the citizen who stepped forward, completely unaware of their plight. Later, they gain even greater rewards from the king, who is now enamoured of their sagacity.

Another incident in the court of Bahram further demonstrates his dogmatic, impatient, cruel, and egomaniacal manner. Bahram has fallen in love with Diliramma, a slave girl he purchased from a travelling merchant. One day while hunting, Bahram offers to demonstrate his skill and Diliramma asks him to do so by shooting a deer in the hoof and ear with but one arrow shot. He uses a slingshot to braise the deer’s ear and then shoots his arrow while the deer is scratching its ear with its hoof. Although his court of sycophants praises his cleverness and skill, Diliramma criticises Bahram for having resorted to trickery.

In his anger, the king has her bound and left in the woods as food for the wild animals (In a variation of the hunting story, Bahram Gur knocks the maiden Azada {in some accounts the maiden is called Fitna}) to the ground and tramples her to death with his camel). Ultimately, she is rescued and, after more adventures, is reunited with Bahram. She explains: “I challenged him to do what I was able to do, namely with a single shot to pierce both the foot and the ear of a deer. Because I was not considerate enough and dared to question his skill as a hunter, he decided that with my boldness I had insulted his honour.”

[T.G. Remer, Ed., Serendipity and the Three Princes of Serendip; From the Peregrinaggio of 1557, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965, page 161]

Diliramma’s method is never disclosed and, presumably, is left as an exercise for the reader. (Consider, for example, shooting down at the deer from a tree. At the correct angle, an arrow might pass through the deer’s ear and then the hoof.)

As many associate scientists are aware, it can be dangerous to question the skill or knowledge of a PI Bahram/Guru/Faculty/Consultant, even when they have discovered alternative solutions to problems and have them at hand.

(In a variation of the hunting story, Bahram Gur knocks the maiden Azada to the ground and tramples her to death with his camel.)

[Ferdowsi, The Epic of the Kings: Shah-Nama: The National Epic of Persia, translated by Reuben Levy, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967, page 300.]

The princes gain further rewards from the king when they help to reveal a plot against his life. A counsellor whose son had been put to death for “treason” (given Bahram’s whimsical use of his power, the actual crimes may have been as legitimate as the Princes’ camel theft) plots revenge. The plan to expose the counsellor involves the same sort of lies, infidelity, and deception that Bahram is trying to eliminate. In this and other matters, Bahram seems to enjoy great success in obtaining cooperation and confessions by the threat of death. “So [Bahram] warned him that if he would not be sincere he would be forced to die.”

[T.G. Remer, Ed., Serendipity and the Three Princes of Serendip; From the Peregrinaggio of 1557, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965, page 67]

Often, research associates feel that they must produce or report results that the principal investigator (PI)/Faculty is expecting. If the PI does not hear what s/he wants to hear, the consequence may be the end of the associate’s career. Some PIs are so feared that they are never challenged.  It is extremely rare that an established PI is even challenged about a possible impropriety in her or his laboratories. The counter examples are so extraordinary that those that are not silently crushed become front page news. [Kevles, D. J. (1998) The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character. Norton, New York

Other sources further confirm the character of Bahram. To acquire the throne of Persia, Bahram Gur, backed up by an army of fierce Arab warriors, threatens the Persian nobles that he “will pound the life out of [their] chosen king of kings and slice off [their] heads” if they do not agree to his method for selecting the new king of kings. They agree to this lopsided trial of courage and strength against the elderly nobleman Khosrau, and Bahram Gur wins in due course. [ Ferdowsi (1967) The Epic of the Kings: Shah-Nama: The National Epic of Persia, translated by Reuben Levy. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, page 303].

For a scientific analogy, consider the plight of junior faculty (nobles) whose fear of tenure review inhibits their free expression of a scientific opinion, or researchers who dare not express a contrary scientific viewpoint for fear of professional retribution.

[Hall, S. S. (1987) Invisible Frontiers: The Race to Synthesise a Human Gene. Atlantic Monthly Press, New York: 23-28]

Wearied while hunting under the blazing sun, Bahram Gur is described as being in “ill-humour, being heated and desirous to rest himself in [a verdant hamlet].”

[ Ferdowsi (1967) The Epic of the Kings: Shah-Nama: The National Epic of Persia, translated by Reuben Levy. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, page 304-5.]

When the people there, perhaps not allowed by the king to be wearied in their labours under the blazing sun, failed to properly salute him, he “became enraged” and instructed his counsellor,

“Let this ill-starred place become the resort of wild beasts and may the water in its stream turn to pitch.”

The counsellor implemented a clever plan and within a very short time this “flourishing town” was turned into a desert. Passing by one year later, Bahram Gur felt sorrow and said to his counsellor,

“How sad that so pleasant a village should have become a desert. Quickly set about restoring it; spend money so that they shall no further suffer misery.”

The king of kings appears to be oblivious to the fates of the people that he caused to perish or to flee from the village.

According to other sources,[ Yarshater, E., Ed. (1968) The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.] the historical Bahram Gur continued the practice of his father, Yazdegerd the Sinner (also translated as “the Wicked” [Sykes, P. (1951) A History of Persia, 3rd Ed. with supplementary essays. Macmillan and Co., London: 429]) to persecute religious sects in his realm. Bahram Gur does have some leadership traits and redeeming accomplishments in matters of state as a despotic ruler of ancient Iran, but the personal character of the historical Bahram is certainly consistent with the definition of Bahramdipity.

The historical Bahram Gur is said to have gone through three stages in his life:

(1) rambunctious (noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline), carefree, spoiled youth.

(2) cruel despotic leadership

(3) “enlightened” leadership.

His enlightened leadership was still very cruel and despotic, but the scene is ancient Persia where it was the norm to trample a maiden to death if she spoke out of turn. This is to make the point that “once a Bahram, not always a Bahram”. It is also known from experiences that some may be Bahrams to some associates but angels of mercy to others.

“Part Bahram, but not 100% Bahram” may also be true.

We are all human; we all go through stages, and we all defy complete characterization by a single simple term.

bah·ram·dip·i·ty (bǎ′ rǒm dip′ ə tē) noun.

1. The suppression of a discovery, sometimes a serendipitous discovery, by a more powerful individual (Bahram) who does cruelly punish, not merely disdain, a person (or persons) of lesser power and little renown who demonstrates sagacity, perspicacity and truthfulness to the Bahram.

2. The self-serving promotion of an often unreliable discovery and its discoverer by a more powerful individual (Bahram). [From Bahram of Persia, as characterised in the fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip. cf., serendipity.]

It is hoped that by naming Bahram di pity, it will be easier to recognise and discuss this aberration of science.

The strength of the analogy between Bahram of Persia and some scientific Bahrams is lamentable.(bad, unfortunate)

Is it necessary for contemporary scientific PIs to be Bahrams in order to protect their realms today, or has our civilisation not advanced as much as we’d like to think?

Adapted from

‘Bahramdipity’ and Scientific Research (The Scientist, February 1, 1999)



“Suppression of Scientific Research: Bahramdipity and Nulltiple Scientific Discoveries” (Science and Engineering Ethics, Volume 7, Issue 1, 2001)



Toby J. Sommer (sommer@alum.mit.edu) is a chemist (S.B., MIT, Ph.D., Yale University) in Waltham, Mass.


Serendipity : Alexander Flemming and Penicillin

We do not know everything, and sometimes when we do get results that are not conventional wisdom, then we have to rethink the conventional wisdom.

So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organisation, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.

Richard Feynman
(1974 commencement address to Cal Tech)

Every man depends on the work of his predecessors. When you hear a sudden unexpected discovery- a bolt from the blue as it were- you can always be sure that it has grown up by the influence of one man on another, and it is the mutual influence which makes the enormous possibility of scientific advance.

Lord Rutherford 

The picture is not thought out and determined beforehand, rather while it is being made it follows the mobility of thought. Finished, it changes further, according to the condition of him who looks at it.

Pablo Picasso

Experimental ideas are very often born by chance as a result of fortuitous observations. Nothing is more common, and it is really the simplest way to begin a piece of scientific work. We walk, so to speak, in the realm of science, and we pursue what happens to present itself accidentally to our eyes.

 Claude Bernard

The destinies of man are guided by the most extraordinary accidents.

 Hans Zinsser

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth…. the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

W. H. Murray

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

Franklin P. Adams


Source: http://www.bacteriainphotos.com/Alexander_Fleming_and_penicillin.html

Serendipity has played a crucial role in science. The majority of the most important and revolutionary discoveries in biology and medicine have a serendipitous element in them (Beveridge, 1957, 1980).[Beveridge, W.I.B. (1957). The Art of Scientific Investigation. New York: Vintage Books.][Beveridge, W.I.B. (1980). Seeds of Discovery: The Logic, Illogic, Serendipity, and Sheer Chance of Scientific Discovery. New York: W.W. Norton.]

A few examples are the discovery of penicillin, heparin, Dramamine, X-rays, the Gram staining technique, the pancreas role in diabetes, and the anaesthetic effects of ether and nitrous oxide. In other areas of science, the discovery of pulsars, the electric current, the connection between electricity and magnetism, and the detection of cosmic microwave radiation background, all involved serendipitous events.

The word serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole, an eccentric English writer, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann in 1754.”This discovery is almost of that kind which I call serendipity, a very expressive word…. I once read a silly fairy tale ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’: as their highnesses travelled they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of…”

Almost all recent popular dictionaries have changed Walpole’s definition of serendipity although they still credit him with the origin of the word. Examples of recent definitions include

  1. Merriam-Webster – the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also:  an instance of this https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity
  2. Oxford dictionary – The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: ‘a fortunate stroke of serendipity’ https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/serendipity
  3. Cambridge dictionary – the fact of finding interesting or valuable things by chance http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/serendipity
  4. The Free dictionary by Farlex –
  • The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
  • The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.
  • An instance of making such a discovery                                           [From the characters in the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, who made such discoveries, from PersianSarandīp, Sri Lanka, from Arabic Sarandīb, ultimately from Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ: Siṃhalaḥ, Sri Lanka + dvīpaḥ, island; see Dhivehi.] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/serendipity

In the original story, sagacity permeates the lives of The Three Princes of Serendip. Although they’ve been incorrectly portrayed as bimbos who keep accidently bumping into good fortune, their actual abilities are more akin to those of Sherlock Holmes.

The three princes received the best formal education possible. The king correctly realised when his sons had reached the peak of their book knowledge and decided their further education best come from the experience of travelling in other lands.

In Persia, the three princes encountered a camel driver searching for his animal. Through astute observation, the princes were able to determine that the camel was blind in one eye, missing a tooth and lame. They also concluded that the animal was carrying a load of butter on one side, honey on the other, and a pregnant woman. Convinced that only thieves could know such details, the camel driver had the princes arrested. When the missing camel was subsequently found, the princes were asked how they were able to determine so many details. The answer, of course, relies more on the sagacity than on chance. The brothers, in turn, confessed the following….

  • I thought he must have been blind in the right eye because only the grass along the left side of the trail was eaten even though it was not as thick as that on the right side. I guessed that the camel lacked a tooth because the way the grass cuds were chewed indicated the tooth was missing. I guessed that the camel was lame because only three footprints were clearly indicated, whereas the fourth print was dragged.
  • They continued: I guessed that the camel had a load of butter on one side because there were many ants on one side of the trail, and I thought he carried honey on the other side because many flies gathered along the other side of the trail. I guessed that the camel must have carried woman because I noted a fingerprint and some female urine near where the camel had knelt.
  • And the third prince concluded: I guessed that the woman was pregnant because the hand prints nearby showed that she had helped up her hands after urinating. [Summary by Austin (1978) of the tale in Remer (1965), which is authenticated by Cammann (1967).]  [Austin, J.H. (1978). Chase, Chance and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty. New York: Columbia University Press.][Cammann, S. (1967). Christopher the Armenian and the Three Princes of Serendip. Comparative Literature Studies, 4, 224-258.][Remer, T. (Ed.)(1965) Serendipity and the Three Princes: From the Peregrinaggio of 1957. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press]

This excerpt was selected to illustrate the princes’ keen perception and intelligence, although it fails to display their good judgement. Throughout the rest of the story, their highly developed mental powers enable them to take advantage of the chance opportunities they encounter.

The Princes of Serendip have their parallels in the scientific world. Perhaps the most famous example of serendipity is the discovery of penicillin, a story which essentially captures the powerful interaction of chance with the prepared mind.

Source: Serendipity And Scientific Discovery by Martin F. Rosenman; Creativity and Leadership in the 21st Century Firm, Volume 13, pages 187-193. Copyright © 2001 by Elsevier Science Ltd. ISBN: 0-7623-0803-6

Staphylococci played an important role in the discovery of penicillin G (benzylpenicillin). As Alexander Fleming writes in his Nobel lecture, December 11, 1945:

“The origin of penicillin was the contamination of a culture plate of staphylococci by a mould. It was noticed that for some distance around the mould colony the staphylococcal colonies had become translucent and evidently lysis was going on. This was an extraordinary appearance and seemed to demand an investigation, so the mould was isolated in pure culture and some of its properties were determined. The mould was found to belong to the genus Penicillium and it was eventually identified as Penicillium notatum,…”

“It arose simply from a fortunate occurrence which happened when I was working on a purely academic bacteriological problem which had nothing to do with antagonism, or moulds, or antiseptics, or antibiotics.”

“…penicillin started as a chance observation. My only merit is that I did not neglect the observation and that I pursued the subject as a bacteriologist. My publication in 1929 was the starting-point of the work of others who developed penicillin especially in the chemical field.”

This “fortunate occurrence” (and more or less fortunate occurrences that followed) led a team of Howard W. Florey (Ernst Chain, Norman Heatley and other scientists) to the mass production of penicillin.

It is impossible to know how many lives have been saved by penicillin but it is estimated that penicillin saved 80,000,000 to 200,000,000 lives. Penicillin has saved and is still saving, millions of people around the world.

To understand what these numbers mean it’s good to realise that the total casualties of the World War II were about 75 million people.

When Alexander Fleming noticed a mould had grown in one of his culture dishes and the staphylococcal colonies around the mould were dead, he decided to explore this promising lead. At least 28 scientists believed Flemming reported a mould killing one or more colonies of bacteria during an experiment, but all chose to view it as an unfortunate error rather than an opportunity for discovery [Selye H. (1975). Presentation at the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors Annual Meeting, Toronto.]

For example, Scott noticed the inhibition of a staphylococcal colony by a mould; he viewed it as a nuisance. He later emphasised that Fleming’s discovery was mainly attributable to tenacity in seizing an opportunity others had let pass rather than due to just pure chance. [ Scott W.M. (1946). Veterinary record, 59, 680.]

What caused A. Flemming to pursue the promising lead that was ignored by so many scientists before him? There is no single answer.

As Austin (1978) [ Austin J.H. (1978). Chase, Chance and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty. New York: Columbia University Press.] observes, “the most novel, if not the greatest discoveries occur when several levels of chance coincide.”

Nine years before his discovery of penicillin, A. Flemming observed that the bacteria in one of his dishes died after being contaminated with his nasal drippings [Maurois A. (1959). The Life of Sir Alexander Flemming. New York: Dutton.] This serendipitous occurrence led to his discovering the bacterial enzyme, lysozyme, which is found in nasal mucus. Although lysozyme proved inappropriate for medical use, the experiments reinforced his professional interest in bacterial inhibitors, furthered his career, and made him more receptive to the potential implications of the penicillin mould he would eventually encounter.

Other contributing factors include his being an artist with acute powers of observation, his frugal Scottish background which encouraged his tendency not to discard any laboratory dish until learning all he possibly could from it.[Austin J.H. (1978). Chase, Chance and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty. New York: Columbia University Press.], and his damp and readily contaminated laboratory in St. Mary’s Hospital in London. (Interestingly, he chose St Mary’s because of it’s swimming pool where he could play water polo, rather than because of it’s scientific facilities.) Although most reports say the penicillin mould came into the laboratory through the window, possibly with the London fox, Hare [ Hare R. (1970). The Birth of Penicillin and the Disarming of Microbes. London: George Allen and Unwin.] suggests that the mould came from Dr. La Touche’s laboratory one floor below. Hare supports his hypothesis by noting that when American pharmaceutical companies studied hundreds of strains of penicillin in the late 1940s, they found only two which produced a better yield than Flemming’s original strain. It is now also known that had the London summer temperatures been at their normal level during those crucial days in 1928, the higher temperatures would have prevented penicillin from having any effect on the staphylococcal colonies [ Ellis-Peglar R.B (1986). Serendipity and the Discovery of Penicillin. New Zealand Medical Journal, 99, 545-549.]

Fleming’s excitement at the time of the discovery was not shared by his colleagues. The antiseptics they had used in field hospitals during World War I killed white blood cells, which protect the body against germs, more efficiently than they killed the germs themselves. A. Flemming was able to show that penicillin did not impair white blood cells, but he was unable to develop it as an effective antiseptic. For some reason, perhaps the lack of resources and encouragement at St. Mary’s or the many other promising areas of research A. Flemming was pursuing, the development of Penicillin stopped for ten years. [ Sheehan J.C. (1982). The Enchanted Ring: The Untold Story of Penicillin. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.]

During the 1930s, the discovery and successful use of sulfa drugs finally convinced the medical community that safe and effective antiseptics were possible [ Shapiro G. (1986). A skeleton in the Darkroom: Stories of Serendipity in Science. New York: Harper and Row.]

Florey and Chain restarted the research on penicillin and miraculously cured mice infected with deadly pneumonia [ Florey H. (1946). Steps Leading to the Therapeutic Application of Microbial Antagonisms. British Medical Bulletin, 4, 248-258.]

A. Flemming might have been able to do that experiment, but he had never attempted it.

Comroe [ Comroe J.H. (1977). Roast Pig and Scientific Discovery, Part I. American Review of Respiratory Disease, 115, 853-860.] notes that chance favoured Chain and Florey when they used mice rather than guinea pigs; Penicillin is non-toxic to mice but quite toxic to guinea pigs. Although they thought their extract was relatively pure penicillin, in actuality it was only 1% penicillin and 99% impurities. Had the impurities been toxic, penicillin would have appeared dangerous, delaying further development. [Taton R. (1957). Reason and Chance in Scientific Discovery. London: Hutchinson Scientific and Technical.]

Even with this fortunate ending, 17 years elapsed between the initial discovery of penicillin and the awarding of the 1945 Nobel Prize in medicine to A. Flemming, Florey and Chain. Serendipity does not provide an instant solution.

Systemic scientific work always follows the initial fortuitous observation, with the eventual application evolving from rigorous experimentation and extensive knowledge of the field.

As Pasteur observed in the mid-1800s, “chance favours only the prepared mind.” Several years earlier Joseph Henry, the first director of Smithsonian, said: “The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only  take root in minds well prepared to receive them.”

Winston Churchill made a similar point: “Men occasionally stumble across the truth but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

Serendipity can indeed play a role in uncovering the truth, but because traditional scientific training and thinking favour logic and predictability over chance, that role is often overlooked in the scientific literature.

Comroe [Comroe J.H. (1977). Roast Pig and Scientific Discovery, Part II, American Review of Respiratory Diseases, 115, 1035-1044.] after reviewing 33 major discoveries in biochemical science in which serendipity played a crucial role and questioning other researchers, concluded that when it comes to ‘chance’ factors, few scientists “tell it like it was” in their writings. Even if they did, journal editors would probably delete, as unscientific, the ‘chance’ aspects in the paper. When interviewers used tape recorders and asked certain structured questions about the work environment [Amabile T.M., Gryskiewicz S.S. (1987). Creativity in the R & D Laboratory (Technical Report No. 30) Greensboro NC: Centre for Creative Leadership.] scientists tended to overlook or not mention the significance of chance occurrences. Not surprisingly, older scientists who have achieved high honours are more willing to acknowledge their indebtedness to chance. [Comroe J.H. (1977). Roast Pig and Scientific Discovery, Part II, American Review of Respiratory Diseases, 115, 1035-1044.]

In a two-year research project at the prestigious Salk Institute, Latour [Latour B, Woolgar S. (1979). Laboratory Life: The Social Reconstruction of Scientific Facts. Beverly Hills C.A: Sage Publications.] studied the scientists around him while working as a laboratory assistant. He found that unpredictable events which critically influenced the research were usually omitted in the final publication. Instead, rational processes and a pseudo-sense of underlying logic were superimposed on the experiments. Often this distortion was not deliberate. Gordon and Poze [Gordon W.J.J, Poze T.(1981). Conscious/Subconscious Interaction in a Creative Act: Journal of Creative Behaviour, 15, 1-10.][Gordon W.J.J, Poze T. (1987). The New Art of the Possible: The Basic Course in Synectics. Cambridge MA: Porpoise Books.] emphasise that people are usually unaware of the exact thinking processes preceding a discovery and therefore are unable to provide a completely accurate account of what transpired.

Real-life science is quite different from the neat logical process conveyed in journal articles. Parkes [ Parkes A.S. (1958). The Art of Scientific Discovery. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine,1, 366-378.] states that most discoveries in biology could not have been arrived at through reason alone. “To perceive the unexpected result or to discern the promising clue from among the multitude of irrelevant odd things that happen almost every day in an active laboratory is perhaps the very essence of the art of research.”

Successful researchers watch closely and are willing to view the data from several different perspectives. They have questioning minds which challenge existing assumptions when they are incongruent with empirical observations. These scientists, realising that serendipitous events can generate important research ideas, recognise and appreciate the unexpected, and encourage laboratory assistants to observe and discuss unusual happenings.

Serendipity can be enhanced in appropriate group settings. What’s  needed is a “critical mass” of scientists from diverse disciplines working together in an environment conducive to frequent and open communication. In such an environment, researchers are more likely to consult with colleagues when developing and evaluating research ideas, with the results illustrating the old adage that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” An unusual observation that doesn’t fit in with a scientist’s work or interests can be shared with a colleague who may be able to find an application for the new information.

Even scientists who recognise and appreciate the significance of the unexpected may find their time and resources totally committed to existing projects. For example, most grant proposals require clearly defined research, leaving little room for discovering anything truly new. Although hypothesis can be explored and checked out, possible outcomes are already explicit in the grant application.

Humphrey [Humphrey J.H. (1984). Serendipity in Immunology. Annual Review of Immunology, 2, 1-21.] states that an ideal application would read “these are the lines along which I expect to begin my experiments, but I really hope an unforeseen observation will prompt an unexpected idea,” but he realises only an unusually enlightened committee would award such a grant. Yet this is how breakthrough discoveries are usually made.

As Koestler [Koestler A. (1964). The Act of Creation. New York: Macmillan.] said,

“The history of discovery is full of arrivals at unexpected destinations, and arrivals at the right destination by the wrong boat.”

Scientists have the analytical training and the keen intelligence necessary for their exploratory voyages. By realising that discovery involves a dynamic interplay between conventional scientific methods and chance in all of its forms, and by cultivating an aptitude for serendipity, scientists can greatly enhance their investigative powers.

Source: Serendipity and Scientific Discovery by Martin F. Rosenman 


What Evolutionary Forces Drove A Dramatic Increase In Brain Size? Bipedalism, Birth and Brain Evolution.

Hominid and hominin what’s the difference?

The terms ‘hominid’ and ‘hominin’ are frequently used in human evolution.

The most commonly used recent definitions are:

Hominid – the group consisting of all modern and extinct Great Apes (that is, modern humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans plus all their immediate ancestors).

Hominin – the group consisting of modern humans, extinct human species and all our immediate ancestors (including members of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Ardipithecus).

Source: http://australianmuseum.net.au/hominid-and-hominin-whats-the-difference#sthash.494DMBty.dpuf

‘Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny’

The theory of recapitulation, also called the biogenetic law or embryological parallelism— often expressed in Ernst Haeckel’s phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”—is a largely discredited biological hypothesis that in developing from embryo to adult, animals go through stages resembling or representing successive stages in the evolution of their remote ancestors. Since embryos also evolve in different ways, within the field of developmental biology the theory of recapitulation is seen as a historical side-note rather than as dogma.
With different formulations, such ideas have been applied and extended to several fields and areas, including the origin of language, religion, biology, cognition and mental activities, anthropology, education theory and developmental psychology. Recapitulation theory is still considered plausible and is applied by some researchers in fields such as the study of the origin of language, cognitive development, and behavioural development in animal species.[Source: Wikipedia]

Though, I am a strong votary of the ‘Recapitulation Theory’

The human brain, though complicated, is also a well evolved organ of the body.

How the Brain Works How the Brain Works

One of the things that makes our species unique is our exceptionally large brain relative to body size. Brain size more than tripled during the course of human evolution, and this size increase was accompanied by a significant reorganization of the cerebral cortex, the prominent convoluted structure responsible for complex mental functions, which accounts for something like 85% of total brain volume.

What evolutionary forces drove this dramatic increase in brain size?

Many theories have been put forward over the years, a popular one being that our ancestors’ brains expanded to accommodate the faculty of language. A fossilized skull fragment belonging to a human ancestor that lived several million years ago provides yet more clues.

A new analysis of the skull suggests that human brain evolution may have been shaped by changes in the female reproductive system that occurred when our ancestors stood upright. What Drove the Evolution of the Human Brain?


Image Source  Image: Marcia Ponce de León and Christoph Zollikofer/University of Zürich guardian.co.uk

At some point in evolution, our ancestors switched from walking on all four limbs to just two, and this transition to bipedalism led to what is referred to as the obstetric dilemma. The switch involved a major reconfiguration of the birth canal, which became significantly narrower because of a change in the structure of the pelvis. At around the same time, however, the brain had begun to expand.

One adaptation that evolved to work around the problem was the emergence of openings in the skull called fontanelles. The anterior fontanelle enables the two frontal bones of the skull to slide past each other, much like the tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust. This compresses the head during birth, facilitating its passage through the birth canal.

In humans, the anterior fontanelle remains open for the first few years of life, allowing for the massive increase in brain size, which occurs largely during early life. The opening gets gradually smaller as new bone is laid down, and is completely closed by about two years of age, at which time the frontal bones have fused to form a structure called the metopic suture.

  • A fontanelle (or fontanel) (colloquially, soft spot) is an anatomical feature of the infant human skull comprising any of the soft membranous gaps (sutures) between the cranial bones that make up the calvaria of a fetus or an infant. Fontanelles allow for rapid stretching and deformation of the neurocranium as the brain expands faster than the surrounding bone can grow. Premature complete ossification of the sutures is called craniosynostosis. During infancy, the anterior fontanelle is known as the bregma.
  • Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanelle

In chimpanzees and bonobos, by contrast, brain growth occurs mostly in the womb, and the anterior fontanelle is closed at around the time of birth.

When this growth pattern appeared is one of the many unanswered questions about human brain evolution. The new study, led by Dean Falk of Florida State University, sought to address this. Working in collaboration with researchers from the Anthropological Institute and Museum at the University of Zürich, Falk compared the skulls of humans, chimps and bonobos of various ages to the fossilized skull of the so-called Taung Child.

Taung Child was found in 1924 in a limestone quarry near Taung, South Africa, and was the first Australopithecine specimen to be discovered. It belonged to an infant of three to four years of age, and is estimated to be approximately 2.5 million years old. The skull is incomplete, including the face, jaw and teeth, but it contains a complete cast of the brain case, which formed naturally from minerals that were deposited inside it and then solidified.

“Most of Taung child’s brain case is no longer present, but you see all kinds of interesting structures in the endocast, like the imprints of the cortical convolutions,” says study co-author Christoph Zollikofer. “We looked at the imprints of the sutures. These features are very well preserved, and have been known about for 50 years, but nobody paid attention to them.”

In 1990, researchers from Washington University Medical School published a three-dimensional CT scan of the Taung Child endocast, and Falk subsequently reconstructed it again using more advanced computer technology. Comparison of this more recent reconstruction with scans of other species now reveal that the skull of Taung Child has a small, triangle-shaped remnant of the anterior fontanelle.

This suggests that Taung Child had a partially fused metopic suture at the time of death and, therefore, that the pattern of brain development in this Australopithecine species was similar to that of anatomically modern humans. Delayed fusion of the metopic suture indicates that fast brain growth in the period following birth came before the emergence of Homo, the genus that evolved from Australopithecines and eventually gave rise to our own species, Homo sapiens.

“There’s a trade-off between walking bipedally in an optimal way, which narrows or constricts the birth canal, and evolving fat, big-brained babies which need a wide birth passage,” says Zollikofer. “Bipedalism and big brains are independent evolutionary processes. Hominins started walking bipedally long before the brain expanded, but these trends collided at birth, and we believe this happened much earlier than previously thought.”

Evolution is an opportunistic processspecies change over time, but only some of these changes prove to be advantageous to an organism’s survival. Some of them can prove advantageous in different and unrelated ways, and this seems to be the case for evolution of the human brain. Delayed fusion of the metopic suture apparently evolved to overcome the obstetric dilemma that arose when our ancestors stood upright, but had the added advantage of allowing for the pattern of modern human brain growth.

There are other ways in which bipedalism could have led to increased brain size. It would, for example, have freed up the forelimbs, and this would likely have led to the expansion and reorganization of the sensory and motor brain areas that process sensation and control movement. Similarly, standing upright would have led to big changes in what our ancestors saw, which may have led to an expansion of the visual areas at the back of the brain.

The new findings suggest that further brain expansion, as well as reorganization of the prefrontal cortex, could have occurred as an indirect result of the pelvic modifications that followed the transition to bipedalism.

All evolutionary changes are due to changes that occur at the genetic level, and the dramatic increase in brain size that occurred during human evolution is no exception. Numerous genes have been implicated in human brain evolution, but it is difficult to link any of them to specific changes in brain organization or structure.

Evan Eichler and colleagues reported that a gene known to be involved in development of the cerebral cortex was duplicated multiple times, and that this occurred exclusively in humans. They also estimate that these duplications took place between two and three million years ago, so it is tempting to speculate that they are somehow linked to the changes that may have occurred as a result of bipedalism.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2012/may/07/1

A Discussion on the above findings (for individuals with a knowledge of medical sciences)


Among non-human primates, the rhesus macaque is the animal of choice for cognitive studies.
While there may be similarities between the brains of humans and non-human primates, the monkey brain is not a scaled down version of the human brain. Rather, each primate brain is the unique result of evolutionary biology, molded over millions of years in response to environmental, social, and genetic influences (Figure). With the human brain, the effects of cultural evolution are also considered.

There are numerous differences in the anatomy and physiology of the CNS in monkeys and humans, including differences in locations of specialized areas in the brain. The primary visual 1 area (blue) accounts for 10% of the total cortex in the monkey but only 3% in humans, and anatomically corresponding visual areas in monkeys and humans can perform very different functions.
The human brain’s architecture and physiology is far more complex than that of the monkey brain.

  1. One indication of this is the length of time it takes for the brain to develop in its major phase: 136 days for monkeys and 470 days for humans.
  2. Other significant differences include the number of synapses a human neuron makes (between 7000 and 10,000) compared with the number a rhesus monkey neuron makes (between 2000 and 6000) and
  3. The expression of at least 91 genes involved in a variety of neural mechanisms that differ between monkeys and humans.
  4. According to Kreiman and associates:  Even though the hippocampus appears to be one of the most conserved areas of the brain (most similar among mammals), there are still considerable differences.
  5. Neurotransmitter receptor distribution varies widely between species. For example, there is an additional small layer of high-density kainate receptors in the deepest part of the hippocampal molecular layer in the monkey, but not in humans.
  6. The inhibitory GABAA receptors are located with high density in the human CA 1 hippocampal region, but not in the same region in monkeys. These results demonstrate considerable changes of the regional and laminar distribution of important signaling molecules in an otherwise evolutionary conservative brain region.

Are Animal Models Relevant in Modern Psychiatry?: Page 3 of 5#sthash.cJJZ8Tz5.dpuf

  • Glutamate Receptors – Several types of ionotropic glutamate receptors have been identified. Three of these are ligand-gated ion channels called NMDA receptors, AMPA receptors, and kainate receptors. These glutamate receptors are named after the agonists that activate them: NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate), AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate), and kainic acid. All of the ionotropic glutamate receptors are nonselective cation channels, allowing the passage of Na+ and K+, and in some cases small amounts of Ca2+.
  • In addition to these ionotropic glutamate receptors, there are three types of metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluRs). These receptors, which modulate postsynaptic ion channels indirectly, differ in their coupling to intracellular messengers and in their sensitivity to pharmacological agents. Activation of many of these receptors leads to inhibition of postsynaptic Ca2+ and Na+ channels. Unlike the excitatory ionotropic glutamate receptors, mGluRs cause slower postsynaptic responses that can either increase or decrease the excitability of postsynaptic cells.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10802/

As per a recent paper

Metopic suture of Taung (Australopithecus africanus) and its implications for hominin brain evolution presented in the

Metopic suture of Taung (Australopithecus africanus) and its implications for hominin brain evolution

File:Australopithecus africanus - Cast of taung child.jpg

Australopithecus africanus – Cast of taung child 

Cast in three parts: endocranium face and mandible, of a 2.1 million year old Australopithecus africanus specimen so-called Taung child, discovered in South Africa.
Collection of the University of the Witwatersrand (Evolutionary Studies Institute), Johannesburg, South Africa. Sterkfontein cave, hominid fossil.  Source 

The infant’s skull consists of the metopic suture, coronal sutures, sagittal suture, and lambdoid sutures. The metopic suture is supposed to close between three to nine months of age. The lambdoid, sagittal and coronal sutures are supposed to close between 22 to 39 months of age. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craniosynostosis ]

The type specimen for Australopithecus africanus (Taung) includes a natural endocast (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocast) that reproduces most of the external morphology of the right cerebral hemisphere and a fragment of fossilized face that articulates with the endocast. Despite the fact that Taung died between 3 and 4 yr of age, the endocast reproduces a small triangular-shaped remnant of the anterior fontanelle, from which a clear metopic suture (MS) courses rostrally along the midline [Hrdlička A (1925) Am J Phys Anthropol 8:379–392]. In this paper they describe and interpret this feature of Taung in light of comparative fossil and actualistic data on the timing of MS closure. In great apes, the MS normally fuses shortly after birth, such that unfused MS similar to Taung’s are rare. In humans, however, MS fuses well after birth, and partially or unfused MS are frequent. In gracile fossil adult hominins that lived between ∼3.0 and 1.5 million yr ago, MS are also relatively frequent, indicating that the modern human-like pattern of late MS fusion may have become adaptive during early hominin evolution.

Selective pressures favouring delayed fusion might have resulted from three aspects of perinatal ontogeny ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontogeny ):

(i) the difficulty of giving birth to large-headed neonates through birth canals that were reconfigured for bipedalism (the “obstetric dilemma”),

(ii) high early postnatal brain growth rates, and

(iii) reorganization and expansion of the frontal neocortex. Overall, their data indicates that hominin brain evolution occurred within a complex network of fetopelvic constraints, which required modification of frontal neurocranial ossification patterns.

Overall, their data indicate that hominin brain evolution occurred within a complex network of fetopelvic constraints, which required modification of frontal neurocranial ossification patterns.

The large body of modern genetic evidence indicates that a network of at least 10 key genes mediates neurocranial suture fusion, and that these genes act differently on different sutures. It is intriguing that the recent sequencing of the Neanderthal genome provides evidence for positive selection in the modern human variant of one of these key genes, RUNX2 ( RUNX2 is a key transcription factor associated with osteoblast differentiation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RUNX2 ), which is known to affect MS fusion. RUNX2-related disorders, such as cleidocranial dysplasia

(Mutations in Cbfa1/Runx2 are associated with the disease Cleidocranial dysostosis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RUNX2 ), result in delayed MS fusion and pathologies, such as extreme bulging of the forehead and hypertelorism. Premature closure of the metopic suture (metopic synostosis), on the other hand, typically results in trigonocephaly: that is, a narrow forehead with an external metopic ridge (keel) extending from glabella to the midforehead, relatively close-set orbits and no lateral browridge.

Coussens AK, et al. (2007) Unravelling the molecular control of calvarial suture fusion in children with craniosynostosis. BMC Genomics 8:458.


  • Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of calvarial sutures, is a common craniofacial abnormality. Causative mutations in more than 10 genes have been identified, involving fibroblast growth factor, transforming growth factor beta, and Eph/ephrin signalling pathways. Mutations affect each human calvarial suture (coronal, sagittal, metopic, and lambdoid) differently, suggesting different gene expression patterns exist in each human suture. They have identified genes with increased expression in unfused sutures compared to fusing/fused sutures that may be pivotal to the maintenance of suture patency or in controlling early osteoblast differentiation (i.e. RBP4, GPC3, C1QTNF3, IL11RA, PTN, POSTN). In addition, they have identified genes with increased expression in fusing/fused suture tissue that they suggest could have a role in premature suture fusion (i.e. WIF1, ANXA3, CYFIP2). Proteins of two of these genes, glypican 3 and retinol binding protein 4, were investigated by immunohistochemistry and localised to the suture mesenchyme and osteogenic fronts of developing human calvaria, respectively, suggesting novel roles for these proteins in the maintenance of suture patency or in controlling early osteoblast differentiation. They showed that there is limited difference in whole genome expression between sutures isolated from patients with syndromic and non-syndromic craniosynostosis and confirmed this by quantitative RT-PCR. Furthermore, distinct expression profiles for each unfused suture type were noted, with the metopic suture being most disparate. Finally, although calvarial bones are generally thought to grow without a cartilage precursor, they showed histologically and by identification of cartilage-specific gene expression that cartilage may be involved in the morphogenesis of lambdoid and posterior sagittal sutures.
  • Craniosynostosis is amongst the most common cranial defects, second only to cleft palate. It occurs in 1 in 2500 live births and can be associated with significant morbidity, including mental retardation, deafness, and blindness, in addition to the significant social stigma associated with craniofacial deformation. The condition may be caused by various genetic mutations, exposure to teratogens such as retinoic acid, mechanical stress, or result from certain metabolic or haematologic disorders. Non-syndromic craniosynostosis refers to sporadic suture fusion in the absence of other developmental abnormalities and most commonly affects the sagittal suture. Syndromic craniosynostosis occurs as a result of simple genetic mutations and is accompanied by additional developmental abnormalities particularly involving the limbs. Syndromic forms of craniosynostosis commonly affect the coronal suture but other sutures may be affected depending on the underlying genetic mutation. FGFR2 mutations are the most common and most severe affecting the coronal, metopic, sagittal, and lambdoid sutures. FGFR3 mutations affect the coronal and/or metopic sutures. FGFR1, TWIST1 and EFNB1 mutations generally affect only the coronal suture. FNB1 and TGFBR1 mutations have been associated with synostosis of the sagittal and/or lambdoid sutures, while gain-of-function MSX2 mutations result in synostosis of the coronal and sagittal sutures.
  • Calvarial bones form by the proliferation and differentiation of multipotent mesenchymal cells into osteoblasts. This process, known as intramembranous ossification, is distinct from the development of the majority of other bones in the body which form by the ossification of a pre-existing cartilaginous matrix (endochondral ossification). Calvaria first form from a condensation of mesenchyme termed the primary centre of ossification. Mesenchymal cell proliferation and subsequent differentiation into osteoblasts occurs at the margins and the bone grows in a radial fashion until the osteogenic fronts of two calvaria approximate each other and structures called sutures form between the bones.These intervening fibrous sutures act as flexible joints between the developing bones allowing the skull to change shape and grow during development. Maintenance of growth at the osteogenic fronts at the edges of the sutures requires a fine balance between proliferation and differentiation. Additionally, apoptosis has a role ensuring that the two osteogenic fronts remain separated. Disruption of any of these processes can result in the premature fusion of calvarial sutures, known as craniosynostosis.

As per the paper, the MS normally becomes obliterated later in humans than in chimpanzees. Furthermore, unfused or partially fused MS in adults of Neolithic to contemporary human populations are relatively frequent, with a global average around 3–4%. Early MS fusion likely represents a primitive feature of haplorhine primates, or even of euprimates, and is a feature uniting crown anthropoid primates. Late MS fusion in humans thus appears as a derived state, and early fusion, as observed in the great apes, appears as the primitive state.

This paper hypothesizes that selective pressures favouring late fusion might have resulted from three different, but mutually nonexclusive, aspects of perinatal ontogeny:

first, the obstetric dilemma;

second, high early postnatal brain growth rates;

and third, reorganization of the frontal neocortex.

Proposed Timeline of Hominin Evolution

  • It is important to note that there is significant, continuous scientific debate regarding the timeline for human evolution
  • Models are continually being proposed, rejected and refined as more fossil evidence comes to light

Image Source

Image Source

  • Bipedalism developed in late Miocene to early Pliocene hominins (~6 – 4 m.y.a), possibly in response to more open habitats

Image Source 

Image Source 

A. Obstetric Dilemma 

Illustration of the female pelvic bones and babies of

Image Source 

Image Source 

  • In the evolution of the human pelvis, repositioning of the sacrum has created a complete bony ring through which the birth canal passes. The need to pass the large human brain through this opening has resulted in the human newborn having a brain less than 30% of it’s adult size. The brain of all the other animals are almost completely developed at birth.
  •  The bony pelvis lacks inherent anatomical structural stability, but is stabilized by a system of tightly woven muscles and ligaments that provide its support. Strong ligaments arranged transversely, oblique, and horizontally resist forces that can externally rotate the pelvis, thereby opening it. Among these are the short posterior SI ligament, the anterior SI ligament, the ilio-lumbar ligament, sacro-spinous ligaments and others. Their function is to counter opposing forces such as AP compression. These ligaments fail when forces exceed their ability causing compression type injury. Vertical stability is provided primarily by the short and long posterior SI ligaments. Other inter-osseous ligaments within the sacroiliac joints also provide additional vertical stability. ( Imaging The Sacrum and Coccyx; Pelvic Stability :  https://www.ceessentials.net/article47.html )
  • These stabilizing ligaments help perform one of the main functions of the pelvis, to transmit weight from the trunk and lumbar vertebrae to the lower extremity. Weight bearing forces from the body are transmitted primarily along vectors to the posterior pelvis, then to the sacrum and sacroiliac joints. Weight-bearing forces are then transmitted to the acetabula for distribution to the femurs. During active weight bearing movements of the body, the anterior pelvic arch functions like a strut maintaining the shape of the pelvic ring. During passive weight bearing such as sitting weight force is transmitted down vectors to the ischial tuberosities. ( Imaging The Sacrum and Coccyx; Pelvic Stability :  https://www.ceessentials.net/article47.html )

As bipedalism was refined in conjunction with an evolutionary increase in neonate and adult brain sizes, the morphology of the birth canal constrained the size and shape of the neonate. Although exactly when during hominin evolution the obstetric dilemma arose has been a subject of debate, this dilemma is especially severe in humans because of their large-headed (and relatively large-brained) neonates and relatively constricted birth canals. The anterior fontanelle and patent metopic suture of human neonates facilitate parturition. During delivery, contractions of the birth canal cause the edges of the neonate’s frontal and parietal bones to overlap and glide together in the region of the anterior fontanelle, which compresses the head and facilitates expulsion of the neonate from the birth canal. In early hominins, increased mobility of the neurocranial bones through delayed MS fusion might have represented an adaptive advantage facilitating birth.

B. High Early Postnatal Brain Growth Rates.

Compared with chimpanzees, human brains continue to grow at high fetal-like rates throughout the first postnatal year of life, which “may reflect the ontogeny of the ‘infrastructure’ required for rapid cognitive development”. They hypothesize that late MS closure in modern humans reflects an evolutionary adaptation of the growing frontal neurocranium to keep up with high brain growth rates. When sustained early brain growth appeared during hominin evolution is still a matter of debate. The large endocranial volume of the Mojokerto child (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mojokerto_child) at an age of < 2 yr provides evidence for high early brain growth rates in H. erectus. Direct evidence for australopith early postnatal cranial ontogeny is currently not available, but evidence for delayed MS fusion in australopiths indicates that early brain growth may already have been fast before the emergence of the genus Homo. If so, rapid early postnatal brain growth preceded the increase in brain size in Homo, which could be because of the obstetric dilemma shifting prenatal brain growth rates postnatally in association with pelvic modifications for bipedalism, or because of an increase in relative brain size (i.e., increased encephalization) in australopiths compared with their (unknown) ancestors.

C. Reorganization of the Frontal Cortex.

The association of unfused MS with increased interorbital and frontal bone widths in extant humans is intriguing when one considers brain shape and possible neurological reorganization in early hominins in conjunction with the frequencies of unfused MS in different taxa. As noted, a sample of Australopithecus and early Homo specimens that lived between ∼3.0 and 1.5 million yr ago shows an unfused MS, but no Paranthropus specimen does. In keeping with the tendency for an unfused MS in humans, A. africanus is characterized by increased interorbital and frontal bone widths compared with Paranthropus. Also consistent with findings for extant humans with unfused MS, endocasts of A. africanus have increased frontal widths in the region of the rostral prefrontal cortex (in addition to an expanded orbital frontal cortex) compared with endocasts of Paranthropus. It is therefore reasonable to hypothesize that, in addition to reflecting an adaptation to high postnatal brain growth rates, an unfused MS in Taung and other early gracile hominins may have been associated with the evolution of certain morphological and cytoarchitectural features of the prefrontal cortex, parts of which are differentially enlarged in humans and known to be crucial for their advanced cognitive capabilities. [As an aside, it is worth noting that humans also have a unique phase of shape change in their braincases before their deciduous teeth begin to erupt that results in a more general neurocranial globularization compared with chimpanzees.] If so, the evolution of increased rates of postnatal brain growth and neurological reorganization were probably entwined in (at least some) species of gracile early hominins.
Immature fossil hominins are currently playing a greater role in shaping the ways comparative data from living primates are interpreted, and it is within this context that the suture morphology of Taung and other fossil hominins that lived more recently than 3 million yr ago is interesting. Although it is beyond the scope of the present article, we hope that future researchers will test and extend the present findings by systematically collecting data on MS, anterior fontanelles, and endocranial size and shape in a wider sample of hominins, including those that lived before ∼3 million y ago (e.g., Australopithecus afarensis) as well as hominins that lived more recently than the fossils we have sampled. Such data are expected to contribute to a more detailed understanding of when, and in which hominin species, rates of postnatal brain growth first began to increase. This understanding, in turn, may contribute to a better grasp of the relationship between the evolutionary refinement of bipedalism and the evolution of brain size and shape.