For the publishing house, see Philtrum Press.

Philtrum visible at centre

Dog philtrum
Precursor medial nasal prominence[1]
TA A05.1.01.007
FMA 59819

Anatomical terminology

The philtrum (Latin: philtrum, Greek: φίλτρον philtron), or medial cleft, is a vertical groove in the middle area of the upper lip, common to many mammals, extending in humans from the nasal septum to the procheilon. Together with a glandular rhinarium and slit-like nostrils, it is believed to constitute the primitive condition for mammals in general.


In most mammals, the philtrum is a narrow groove that may carry moisture from the mouth to the rhinarium or nose pad through capillary action, to keep the nose wet. A wet nose pad traps odor particles better than a dry one, thus it greatly enhances the function of the olfactory system.

For humans and most primates, the philtrum survives only as a vestigial medial depression between the nose and upper lip.[2]

The human philtrum, bordered by ridges, also is known as the infranasal depression, but has no apparent function. That may be because most higher primates rely more on vision than on smell, and so no longer need a wet nose pad or a philtrum to keep the nose pad wet. Strepsirrhine primates, such as lemurs, still retain the philtrum and the rhinarium, unlike monkeys and apes.[3]



In humans, the philtrum is formed where the nasomedial and maxillary processes meet during embryonic development (colloquially known as Hulse lines). When these processes fail to fuse fully in humans, a cleft lip (sometimes called a "hare lip") may result.

A flattened or smooth philtrum may be a symptom of fetal alcohol syndrome or Prader–Willi syndrome.[4]


A study of boys diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders found that a broader than average philtrum is one of a cluster of physical abnormalities associated with autism.[5]

Society and culture

In Jewish mythology, each embryo has an angel teaching them all of the wisdom in the world while they are in utero. The Angel lightly taps an infant's upper lip before birth, to silence the infant from telling all the secrets in the universe to the humans who reside in it; the infant then somewhat forgets the Torah they have been taught.[6] Some believers of the myth speculate that this is the cause of the philtrum, but it does not have a basis in traditional Jewish texts.[7]

In Philippine mythology the enchanted creature diwata (or encantado) has a smooth skin, with no wrinkles even at the joints, and no philtrum.[8]

In Key Largo (1948), Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) tells a "fairy tale" to a child, saying that, before birth, the soul knows all the secrets of heaven, but at birth an angel presses a fingertip just above one's lip, which seals us to silence.[9]

In the movie Mr. Nobody, unborn infants are said to have knowledge of all past & future events. As an unborn infant is about to be sent to its mother, the "Angels of Oblivion" lightly tap its upper lip, whereupon the unborn infant forgets everything it knows. The movie follows the life story of one infant, whose lip hadn't been tapped.[10]

In the movie The Prophecy, the Archangel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) tells Thomas Dagget "Do you know how you got that dent, in your top lip? Way back, before you were born, I told you a secret, then I put my finger there and I said 'Shhhhh!'".

In Action Comics #719 the Joker says a clue is right under Batman's nose. This leads him to a Dr. Philip Drum.[11]

See also

This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see Anatomical terminology.


  1. hednk-032—Embryo Images at University of North Carolina
  2. Philip Hershkovitz,Living New World monkeys (Platyrrhini): with an introduction to Primates, University of Chicago Press, 1977, Vol. I, p. 16
  3. Ankel-Simons, F. (2007). Primate Anatomy (3rd ed.). Academic Press. p. 394. ISBN 978-0-12-372576-9.
  4. FAS Clinical
  5. Aldridge, Kristina; George, Ian D; Cole, Kimberly K; Austin, Jordan R; Takahashi, T Nicole; Duan, Ye; Miles, Judith H (2011). "Facial phenotypes in subgroups of prepubertal boys with autism spectrum disorders are correlated with clinical phenotypes". Molecular Autism. 2 (1): 15. doi:10.1186/2040-2392-2-15. PMC 3212884Freely accessible. PMID 21999758.
  6. Gabriel's Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales, p57
  7. Babylonian Talmud; Niddah 30b
  8. Theresa Bane (4 September 2013). Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology. McFarland. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-4766-1242-3.
  11. "Hazard's Choice". Action Comics (719). 1996.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.