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Comparing Dirichlet normal surface energy of tooth crowns, a new technique of molar shape quantification for dietary inference, with previous methods in isolation and in combination

Authors

  • Jonathan M. Bunn,

    Corresponding author
    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
    • Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364
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  • Doug M. Boyer,

    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
    2. Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Brooklyn College City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY 11210-2850
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  • Yaron Lipman,

    1. Department of Mathematics and Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
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  • Elizabeth M. St. Clair,

    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
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  • Jukka Jernvall,

    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
    2. Institute for Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
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  • Ingrid Daubechies

    1. Department of Mathematics and Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-0001
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Abstract

Inferred dietary preference is a major component of paleoecologies of extinct primates. Molar occlusal shape correlates with diet in living mammals, so teeth are a potentially useful structure from which to reconstruct diet in extinct taxa. We assess the efficacy of Dirichlet normal energy (DNE) calculated for molar tooth surfaces for reflecting diet. We evaluate DNE, which uses changes in normal vectors to characterize curvature, by directly comparing this metric to metrics previously used in dietary inference. We also test whether combining methods improves diet reconstructions. The study sample consisted of 146 lower (mandibular) second molars belonging to 24 euarchontan taxa. Five shape quantification metrics were calculated on each molar: DNE, shearing quotient, shearing ratio, relief index, and orientation patch count rotated (OPCR). Statistical analyses were completed for each variable to assess effects of taxon and diet. Discriminant function analysis was used to assess ability of combinations of variables to predict diet. Values differ significantly by diets for all variables, although shearing ratios and OPCR do not distinguish statistically between insectivores and folivores or omnivores and frugivores. Combined analyses were much more effective at predicting diet than any metric alone. Alone, relief index and DNE were most effective at predicting diet. OPCR was the least effective alone but is still valuable as the only quantitative measure of surface complexity. Of all methods considered, DNE was the least methodologically sensitive, and its effectiveness suggests it will be a valuable tool for dietary reconstruction. Am J Phys Anthropol 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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