Identifying metameric variation in extant hominoid and fossil hominid mandibular molars


  • Leslea J. Hlusko

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801
    • Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, 109 Davenport Hall, MC-148, 607 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801
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Landmark data were collected from cross sections and occlusal images of mandibular molar crowns, and Euclidean distance matrix analysis (EDMA) was used to identify metameric morphological variation between the first and second mandibular molars of living taxa: Gorilla gorilla (n = 30), Pan troglodytes (n = 34), and Homo sapiens (n = 26). Two patterns of metameric variation were identified, one unique to humans and the other shared by chimpanzees and gorillas.

In order to assess the utility of this type of analysis for the interpretation of the hominid fossil record, 19 mandibular molars from Sterkfontein Member 4, South Africa, were examined. The pattern of metameric variation of the Sterkfontein molars resembled that of the African great apes, and differed from the modern human pattern. These results demonstrate that data on metameric variation may provide information regarding function or developmental processes previously indiscernible from fossil material. Am J Phys Anthropol 118:86–97, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.