Author: Seselj, Maja
Source: American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 163 (3):531-541; 10.1002/ajpa.23228 JUL 2017
This study takes a new approach to interpreting dental development in Pleistocene Homo in comparison with recent modern humans. As rates of dental development and skeletal growth are correlated given age in modern humans, using age and skeletal growth in tandem yields more accurate dental development estimates. Here, I apply these models to fossil Homo to obtain more individualized predictions and interpretations of their dental development relative to recent modern humans.
Materials and Methods
Proportional odds logistic regression models based on three recent modern human samples (N = 181) were used to predict permanent mandibular tooth development scores in five Pleistocene subadults: Homo erectus/ergaster, Neanderthals, and anatomically modern humans (AMHs). Explanatory variables include a skeletal growth indicator (i.e., diaphyseal femoral length), and chronological age.
AMHs Lagar Velho 1 and Qafzeh 10 share delayed incisor development, but exhibit considerable idiosyncratic variation within and across tooth types, relative to each other and to the reference samples. Neanderthals Dederiyeh 1 and Le Moustier 1 exhibit delayed incisor coupled with advanced molar development, but differences are reduced when femoral diaphysis length is considered. Dental development in KNM-WT 15,000 Homo erectus/ergaster, while advanced for his age, almost exactly matches the predictions once femoral length is included in the models.
This study provides a new interpretation of dental development in KNM-WT 15000 as primarily reflecting his faster rates of skeletal growth. While the two AMH specimens exhibit considerable individual variation, the Neanderthals exhibit delayed incisor development early and advanced molar development later in ontogeny.