The allometry of relative cusp size in hominoid mandibular molars



The crown area (MCBA) and cusp areas of mandibular molars of Homo sapiens (M1 = 131; M2 = 71), Gorilla (M1 = 25) and Pongo (M1 = 24) were studied to determine whether the relative size of the mesial and distal cusps are related to overall crown size. Allometric trends were assessed by examining the correlation between relative cusp areas and MCBA and by calculating the slope of the regression line of log cusp area and log MCBA. With the exception of the metaconid in the Homo sapiens M2s, the results of the intraspecific analyses provide little evidence of an allometric trend for relative reduction of the mesial cusps with increasing crown size. None of the samples provide consistent or reliable evidence of such a trend for the protoconid, nor do the M1 samples provide evidence for such a trend for the metaconid. The evidence from the distal cusps is also mixed: positive allometry for the entoconid for the Homo sapiens M2s and for the hypoconulid for the Homo sapiens M1s, with no departure from isometry in either Gorilla or Pongo. The interspecific data provide no evidence of any trend for the mesial cusps to decrease or the distal cusps to increase in importance in larger teeth.

If one accepts the proposition that the static allometric trends observed in this study are reasonable analogues for any allometric relationships within, or between, fossil hominid taxa, then the evidence presented above does not support the hypothesis that the reduction of the trigonid, which is observed in the “robust” australopithecines, is an allometric phenomenon.