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Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei.

Ungar PS, Grine FE, Teaford MF - PLoS ONE (2008)

Bottom Line: High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally hard and tough foods respectively.This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or tough foods in the days before they died.The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States of America. pungar@uark.edu

ABSTRACT
The Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei had enormous, flat, thickly enameled cheek teeth, a robust cranium and mandible, and inferred massive, powerful chewing muscles. This specialized morphology, which earned P. boisei the nickname "Nutcracker Man", suggests that this hominin could have consumed very mechanically challenging foods. It has been recently argued, however, that specialized hominin morphology may indicate adaptations for the consumption of occasional fallback foods rather than preferred resources. Dental microwear offers a potential means by which to test this hypothesis in that it reflects actual use rather than genetic adaptation. High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally hard and tough foods respectively. Here we present the first quantitative analysis of dental microwear for P. boisei. Seven specimens examined preserved unobscured antemortem molar microwear. These all show relatively low complexity and anisotropy values. This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or tough foods in the days before they died. The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

Show MeSH
Dental microwear comparisons of Paranthropus boisei individuals with (A) South African early hominins and (B) various extant species.The x-axis and y-axis represent surface complexity (Asfc) and anisotropy (epLsar) respectively.
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pone-0002044-g002: Dental microwear comparisons of Paranthropus boisei individuals with (A) South African early hominins and (B) various extant species.The x-axis and y-axis represent surface complexity (Asfc) and anisotropy (epLsar) respectively.

Mentions: Paranthropus boisei fractal complexity values fell near the bottom end of the range for living primates. None showed the extremely high Asfc values observed for some Lophocebus albigena and especially Cebus apella individuals. Further, none of the P. boisei individuals showed the extremely high anisotropy values reported for some Trachypithecus cristata and Alouatta palliata individuals (Fig 2a). These results are borne out to a degree by statistical analyses despite the small sample size for the fossil hominin (Tables 1–2). Specifically, P. boisei had significantly lower Asfc values and variance than C. apella, and marginally lower Asfc values than L. albigena. Marginally lower is here defined as p≤0.05 for Fisher's LSD but not Tukey's HSD tests. The hominin also had marginally higher Asfc values and lower epLsar values than A. palliata.


Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei.

Ungar PS, Grine FE, Teaford MF - PLoS ONE (2008)

Dental microwear comparisons of Paranthropus boisei individuals with (A) South African early hominins and (B) various extant species.The x-axis and y-axis represent surface complexity (Asfc) and anisotropy (epLsar) respectively.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2315797&req=5

pone-0002044-g002: Dental microwear comparisons of Paranthropus boisei individuals with (A) South African early hominins and (B) various extant species.The x-axis and y-axis represent surface complexity (Asfc) and anisotropy (epLsar) respectively.
Mentions: Paranthropus boisei fractal complexity values fell near the bottom end of the range for living primates. None showed the extremely high Asfc values observed for some Lophocebus albigena and especially Cebus apella individuals. Further, none of the P. boisei individuals showed the extremely high anisotropy values reported for some Trachypithecus cristata and Alouatta palliata individuals (Fig 2a). These results are borne out to a degree by statistical analyses despite the small sample size for the fossil hominin (Tables 1–2). Specifically, P. boisei had significantly lower Asfc values and variance than C. apella, and marginally lower Asfc values than L. albigena. Marginally lower is here defined as p≤0.05 for Fisher's LSD but not Tukey's HSD tests. The hominin also had marginally higher Asfc values and lower epLsar values than A. palliata.

Bottom Line: High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally hard and tough foods respectively.This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or tough foods in the days before they died.The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States of America. pungar@uark.edu

ABSTRACT
The Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei had enormous, flat, thickly enameled cheek teeth, a robust cranium and mandible, and inferred massive, powerful chewing muscles. This specialized morphology, which earned P. boisei the nickname "Nutcracker Man", suggests that this hominin could have consumed very mechanically challenging foods. It has been recently argued, however, that specialized hominin morphology may indicate adaptations for the consumption of occasional fallback foods rather than preferred resources. Dental microwear offers a potential means by which to test this hypothesis in that it reflects actual use rather than genetic adaptation. High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally hard and tough foods respectively. Here we present the first quantitative analysis of dental microwear for P. boisei. Seven specimens examined preserved unobscured antemortem molar microwear. These all show relatively low complexity and anisotropy values. This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or tough foods in the days before they died. The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

Show MeSH