Geometric morphometric analysis of allometric variation in the mandibular morphology of the hominids of Atapuerca, Sima de los Huesos site



Allometry is an important factor of morphological integration that contributes to the organization of the phenotype and its variation. Variation in the allometric shape of the mandible is particularly important in hominid evolution because the mandible carries important taxonomic traits. Some of these traits are known to covary with size, particularly the retromolar space, symphyseal curvature, and position of the mental foramen. The mandible is a well studied system in the context of the evolutionary development of complex morphological structures because it is composed of different developmental units that are integrated within a single bone. In the present study, we investigated the allometric variation of two important developmental units that are separated by the inferior nerve (a branch of CN V3). We tested the null hypothesis that there would be no difference in allometric variation between the two components. Procrustes-based geometric morphometrics of 20 two-dimensional (2D) landmarks were analyzed by multivariate regressions of shape on size in samples from 121 humans, 48 chimpanzees, and 50 gorillas (all recent specimens), eight fossil hominids from Atapuerca, Sima de los Huesos (AT-SH), and 17 Neandertals. The findings show that in all of the examined species, there was significantly greater allometric variation in the supra-nerve unit than in the infra-nerve unit. The formation of the retromolar space exhibited an allometric relationship with the supra-nerve unit in all of the species studied. The formation of the chin-like morphology is an “apodynamic” feature of the infra-nerve unit in the AT-SH hominids. The results of this study support the hypothesis that allometry contributes to the organization of variation in complex morphological structures. Anat Rec Part A 278A:551–560, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.