Three-dimensional evaluation of root canal morphology in lower second premolars of early and middle pleistocene human populations from atapuerca (Burgos, Spain)



The aim of this study is to describe the morphology of the roots and root canals of permanent lower second premolars (LP4s) with fully developed roots of five hominin groups: Homo sp. (ATE9-1 specimen) from Atapuerca-Sima del Elefante locality, H. antecessor (ATD6-4 and ATD6-125) from Atapuerca-Gran Dolina TD6 locality, H. heidelbergensis from Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos locality, H. neanderthalensis from Krapina, Regourdou, and Abri Bourgeois-Delaunay localities, and two contemporary H. sapiens groups. The teeth were scanned by means of microtomography. The roots were divided into three virtual segments by three planes: cemento-enamel junction (CEJ), mid-root (MR), and mid-apex (MA). Volumetric and planar direct measurements of the whole teeth and each segment were taken. Descriptive statistical analyses and nonparametric Mann-Whiney test were performed to test for significant differences (P < 0.025) between groups. ATE9-1 and Gran Dolina-TD6 fossils present intricate radicular complexes that might be transitional between the morphologies of Australopithecus robustus and African early Homo and the derived conditions typically found in later Homo. In H. neanderthalensis and H. heidelbergensis, the root canals are wide, with small apical convergence. This trait is particularly pronounced in the Sima de los Huesos sample which may reflect a particularity of this population. Our study demonstrates the potential of hominin roots and root canals as untapped sources of taxonomic information when the tooth crown is fragmented. Future studies, including more fossil specimens and species will shed light in the polarity of the morphologies observed. Am J Phys Anthropol 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.