Posterior tooth size, body size, and diet in South African gracile australopithecines


  • This research was supported by NSF grant GS-33035.


A model relating relative size of the posterior teeth to diet is suggested for forest and savanna primates and Homo. Relative tooth size is calculated for the South African gracile australopithecine sample using posterior maxillary area sums and size estimates based on four limb bones. A number of limbs were shown to be non-hominid. Comparisons show the South African gracile sample apparently adapted to a very heavily masticated diet with relative tooth size significantly greater than any living hominoid. Periodic intensive utilization of grains and roots combined with scavenged animal protein are suggested as the most likely dietary reconstruction.