Enamel thickness and the topography of the enamel-dentine junction in South African Plio-Pleistocene hominids with special reference to the Carabelli trait

Gary T. Schwartz, J. Francis Thackeray, Cynthia Reid, J. F. Van Reenan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study explores the internal morphology of early hominid teeth using high-resolution computed tomography. Data on Carabelli feature size, enamel thickness, and the topography of the enamel-dentine junction are considered together in order to examine the relationship among these variables in the maxillary molars of gracile and robust australopithecines from South Africa. In particular, one aim is to investigate the degree to which Carabelli feature size influences enamel thickness in the plane of the mesial cusps. The results demonstrate that maxillary molars attributed to Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein, Taung and Makapansgat possess larger Carabelli features and thinner enamel along the lingual wall of the protocone than do specimens attributed to Paranthropus robustus from Swartkrans and Kromdraai. Distinct differences in the position of the Carabelli feature at the level of both the enamel-dentine junction and tooth crown surface between early hominid species may help explain the observed disparity in enamel thickness at that region of the tooth crown as well as offer clues to the functional role of Carabelli's cusp. As the size and position of the Carabelli feature affects the linear thickness of enamel at this one particular region of the tooth crown, future comparative studies focusing on taxa that possess moderate to strong development of the Carabelli complex should use the linear thickness of enamel taken close to the protoconal dentine horn or at the maximum projection of the Carabelli's cusp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-542
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of human evolution
Volume35
Issue number4-5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1998
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • CT
  • Carabelli's cusp
  • Enamel thickness
  • Enamel-dentine junction
  • Maxillary molars
  • Morphometry
  • Plio-Pleistocene hominids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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