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Three-dimensional molar enamel distribution and thickness in Australopithecus and Paranthropus.

Olejniczak, AJ; Smith, TM; Skinner, MM; Grine, FE; Feeney, RN; Thackeray, JF; Hublin, JJ; (2008) Three-dimensional molar enamel distribution and thickness in Australopithecus and Paranthropus. Biol Lett , 4 (4) 406 - 410. 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0223.

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Abstract

Thick molar enamel is among the few diagnostic characters of hominins which are measurable in fossil specimens. Despite a long history of study and characterization of Paranthropus molars as relatively 'hyper-thick', only a few tooth fragments and controlled planes of section (designed to be proxies of whole-crown thickness) have been measured. Here, we measure molar enamel thickness in Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus using accurate microtomographic methods, recording the whole-crown distribution of enamel. Both taxa have relatively thick enamel, but are thinner than previously characterized based on two-dimensional measurements. Three-dimensional measurements show that P. robustus enamel is not hyper-thick, and A. africanus enamel is relatively thinner than that of recent humans. Interspecific differences in the whole-crown distribution of enamel thickness influence cross-sectional measurements such that enamel thickness is exaggerated in two-dimensional sections of A. africanus and P. robustus molars. As such, two-dimensional enamel thickness measurements in australopiths are not reliable proxies for the three-dimensional data they are meant to represent. The three-dimensional distribution of enamel thickness shows different patterns among species, and is more useful for the interpretation of functional adaptations than single summary measures of enamel thickness.

Type:Article
Title:Three-dimensional molar enamel distribution and thickness in Australopithecus and Paranthropus.
Location:England
DOI:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0223
Language:English
Additional information:PMCID: PMC2610159
Keywords:Animals, Biological Evolution, Dental Enamel, Hominidae, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Molar, Tomography, X-Ray Computed
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Anthropology

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