Heritability maps of human face morphology through large-scale automated three-dimensional phenotyping

Dimosthenis Tsagkrasoulis, Pirro Hysi, Tim Spector, Giovanni Montana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
182 Downloads (Pure)


The human face is a complex trait under strong genetic control, as evidenced by the striking visual
similarity between twins. Nevertheless, heritability estimates of facial traits have often been
surprisingly low or difficult to replicate. Furthermore, the construction of facial phenotypes that
correspond to naturally perceived facial features remains largely a mystery. We present here a largescale
heritability study of face geometry that aims to address these issues. High-resolution, threedimensional
facial models have been acquired on a cohort of 952 twins recruited from the TwinsUK
registry, and processed through a novel landmarking workflow, GESSA (Geodesic Ensemble Surface
Sampling Algorithm). The algorithm places thousands of landmarks throughout the facial surface
and automatically establishes point-wise correspondence across faces. These landmarks enabled us
to intuitively characterize facial geometry at a fine level of detail through curvature measurements,
yielding accurate heritability maps of the human face (www.heritabilitymaps.info).
Original languageEnglish
Article number45885
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2017


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