• tooth morphology;
  • micro-computed tomography;
  • geometric morphometrics;
  • sliding semilandmarks


Previous research has demonstrated that species and subspecies of extant chimpanzees and bonobos can be distinguished on the basis of the shape of their molar crowns. Thus, there is potential for fossil taxa, particularly fossil hominins, to be distinguished at similar taxonomic levels using molar crown morphology. Unfortunately, due to occlusal attrition, the original crown morphology is often absent in fossil teeth, and this has limited the amount of shape information used to discriminate hominin molars. The enamel–dentine junction (EDJ) of molar teeth preserves considerable shape information, particularly in regard to the original shape of the crown, and remains present through the early stages of attrition. In this study, we investigate whether the shape of the EDJ of lower first and second molars can distinguish species and subspecies of extant Pan. Micro-computed tomography was employed to non-destructively image the EDJ, and geometric morphometric analytical methods were used to compare EDJ shape among samples of Pan paniscus (N = 17), Pan troglodytes troglodytes (N = 13), and Pan troglodytes verus (N = 18). Discriminant analysis indicates that EDJ morphology distinguishes among extant Pan species and subspecies with a high degree of reliability. The morphological differences in EDJ shape among the taxa are subtle and relate to the relative height and position of the dentine horns, the height of the dentine crown, and the shape of the crown base, but their existence supports the inclusion of EDJ shape (particularly those aspects of shape in the vertical dimension) in the systematic analysis of fossil hominin lower molars. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.