Analysis of the dental morphology of Plio-Pleistocene hominids. IV. Mandibular postcanine root morphology

Wood, B. A., Abbott, S. A. & Uytterschaut, H., Feb-1988, In : Journal of anatomy. 156, p. 107-39 33 p.

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The subocclusal morphology of 168 permanent mandibular premolars (N = 77) and molars (N = 91) of Plio-Pleistocene hominids has been investigated. The taxonomic allocation of the teeth, which represent at least 46 individuals, was based on nondental evidence. Specimens were allocated to one of two major taxonomic categories, (EAFROB or EAFHOM), East African Homo erectus (EAFHER), or their taxonomic affinity was regarded as 'unknown' (N = 17). Information about the root system was derived from radiography and direct observation. Morphometric data were in the form of nine linear and two angular measurements based on eighteen reference points. Root form was also assessed using a scheme which recognised four classes of root morphology. Data were compared using both univariate and multivariate techniques, including Principal Component and Canonical Variate analysis. Posterior probabilities derived from the latter were used (in a two-taxon design model) to assess the affinities of the 'unknown' specimens. The variation in hominid mandibular premolar root form was interpreted as two morphoclines, based on the presumed primitive condition of the P3 (with mesiobuccal and distal roots, 2R: MB and D) and P4 (with mesial and distal root, 2R: M and D) root systems. One trend apparently leads towards root reduction (i.e. P3 = 1 R; P4 = 1 R), and the other to root elaboration (i.e. P3 and P4 = 2R: M and D). The extreme form of the latter is the 'molarisation' of the premolar roots seen in EAFROB. Despite major differences in root form there was relatively little taxonomic variation in root metrics, except for a more robust distal root system in EAFROB. Molar root form showed little interspecific variation except for M2 in which the roots in EAFROB were larger and more robust, with differences in root height being greater for the distal than for the mesial roots. Root form and metrics enable four of the 'unknown' specimens (KMN-ER 819, 1482, 1483 and 1801) to be tentatively allocated to EAFHOM, and a single specimen, KMN-ER 3731, to EAFROB. Published assessments of the root morphology of the 'robust' australopithecines from Swartkrans suggest that the premolar root form of Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus is not obviously intermediate between the presumed ancestral condition, and the 'molarised' mandibular premolar root systems of Australopithecus (Paranthropus) boisei.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-39
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of anatomy
Publication statusPublished - Feb-1988
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa, Eastern, Bicuspid, Biological Evolution, Cuspid, Female, Fossils, History, Ancient, Humans, Male, Mandible, Paleodontology, Paleontology, Statistics as Topic, Tooth Root, Comparative Study, Historical Article, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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