Explanations for the brain size increments through primate and, particularly, human evolution are numerous. Commonly, these hypotheses rely on the influence that behavioral and ecological variables have on brain size in extant primates, such as diet quality, social group size, or home range (HR) area. However, HR area does not reflect the time spent moving. As such, it has not been properly addressed whether the effort involved in movement could have affected brain size evolution in primates. This study aimed to test the influence of daily movement on primates’ brain sizes, controlling for these other behavioral and ecological factors. We used a large comparative dataset of extant primate species and phylogenetic comparative methods. Our results show a significant correlation between daily movement and brain mass, which is not explained by the influence of diet, social group size, HR, or body mass. Hence, from an evolutionary timescale, a longer daily movement distance is not a constraining factor for the energetic investment in a larger brain. On the contrary, increased mobility could have contributed to brain mass incrementations through evolution.
Here, we present a metric and morphological study of the molar remains from the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible by means of microcomputed tomography. According to the last analysis, based on the combination of geomorphological and paleontological data, the level bearing this human mandible probably corresponds to the marine isotope stages (MIS) 7. These data place the Montmaurin-La Niche in a chronologically intermediate position between the Neanderthals and the Middle Pleistocene fossils (e.g., Sima de los Huesos, la Caune de l’Arago). A recent study has revealed that while the mandible is more closely related to the Early and Middle Pleistocene African and Eurasian populations, the morphology of the outer enamel surfaces of its molars is typical of the Neanderthal linage. The data presented here are in line with this finding because the morphology of the enamel-dentine junction of the molars is similar to that of Neanderthals, whereas the absolute and relative enamel thickness values (2D and 3D) are closer to those exhibited by some Early Pleistocene hominins. Moreover, the pulp cavity morphology and proportions are in concordance with the Neanderthal populations. Our results strengthen the hypothesis that the settlement of Europe could be the result of several migrations, at different times, originated from a common source population. Thus, the variability in the European Middle Pleistocene populations (e.g., Montmaurin, Sima de los Huesos, Arago, Mala Balanica) could indicate different migrations at different times and/or population fragmentation, without excluding the possible hybridization between residents and new settlers.
Sexual dimorphism is an important component of the total variation seen in populations and plays a key role in taxonomic debates. In this study, microtomographic (microcomputed tomography) techniques were applied to a sample of hominin teeth from the Sima de los Huesos site (Spain). Dental tissue proportions of the permanent canines were assessed to characterize the pattern and degree of sexual dimorphism within this population. In addition, the possible similarities and differences with the Homo neanderthalensis remains from Krapina (Croatia) and with a recent modern human sample were evaluated. A combination of classical statistical approaches with more novel techniques allowed us not only to ratify the sex allocation of the individuals previously assigned in the literature but also to estimate the sex of the youngest individuals, which were not assessed in previous studies. Likewise, the sexes of certain extensively worn canines and isolated pieces were estimated. As a result, the sex ratio observed in our dental sample from the Sima de los Huesos population is 5:9 (Nm:Nf). In general terms, both Sima de los Huesos and Krapina dental samples have a degree of sexual dimorphism in their permanent canine tissue proportions that does not surpass that of modern humans. The marked dimorphic root volume of Sima de los Huesos mandibular canines is the exception, which surpasses the modern human mean, although it falls within the 95% confidence interval. Therefore, our results do not support that dental tissue proportions of the European Middle Pleistocene populations were more dimorphic than in modern humans. However, the differences in canine tissue proportions are great enough to allow sex estimation with a high degree of confidence.
Dental enamel thickness, topography, growth and development vary among hominins. In Homo, the thickness of dental enamel in most Pleistocene hominins display variations from thick to hyper-thick, while Neanderthals exhibit proportionally thinner enamel. The origin of the thin trait remains unclear. In this context, the Middle Pleistocene human dental assemblage from Atapuerca-Sima de los Huesos (SH) provides a unique opportunity to trace the evolution of enamel thickness in European hominins. In this study, we aim to test the hypothesis if the SH molar sample approximates the Neanderthal condition for enamel thickness and/or distribution. This study includes 626 molars, both original and comparative data. We analysed the molar inner structural organization of the original collections (n = 124), belonging to SH(n = 72) and modern humans from Spanish origin (n = 52). We compared the SH estimates to those of extinct and extant populations of the genus Homo from African, Asian and European origin (estimates extracted from literature n = 502). The comparative sample included maxillary and mandibular molars belonging to H. erectus, East and North African Homo, European Middle Pleistocene Homo, Neanderthals, and fossil and extant H. sapiens. We used high-resolution images to investigate the endostructural configuration of SH molars (tissue proportions, enamel thickness and distribution). The SH molars exhibit on average thick absolute and relative enamel in 2D and 3D estimates, both in the complete crown and the lateral enamel. This primitive condition is shared with the majority of extinct and extant hominin sample, except for Neanderthals and some isolated specimens. On the contrary, the SH molar enamel distribution maps reveal a distribution pattern similar to the Neanderthal signal (with thicker enamel on the lingual cusps and more peripherally distributed), compared to H. antecessor and modern humans. Due to the phylogenetic position of the SH population, the thick condition in molars could represent the persistence of the plesiomorphic condition in this group. Still, more data is needed on other Early and Middle Pleistocene populations to fully understand the evolutionary meaning of this trait.
Objectives Here we describe the case of an ectopic maxillary third molar (M3), preventing the eruption of the M2, in the individual H3 of the hominin hypodigm of level TD6.2 of the Early Pleistocene site of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). Materials and Methods The fossil remains from the TD6.2 level of the Gran Dolina site (about 170 specimens) are assigned to Homo antecessor. Different geochronological methods place these hominins in the oxygen isotopic stage 21, between 0.8 and 0.85 million years ago (Ma). The immature individual H3 is represented by an almost complete midface (ATD6-69), preserving various teeth in situ. We used high-resolution microtomograhy (mCT) to investigate the abnormal position of the left M3, virtually reconstruct M2, and M3 as well as assessing the development stage of these. Finally, we compare this case with extinct and extant populations. Results Based on the identified signs, we suggest that individual H3 suffered from a unilateral impaction of the M2 as a result of the ectopic position of the developing M3. Discussion We conclude that the most likely etiology for the ectopic position of the M3 is the lack of space in the maxilla. We discuss possible contributing factors, such as morphometric aspects of the maxilla and the early mineralization of the M3, to support the M2 impaction. Finally, due to the early age at death of this individual we did not identify any secondary lesion associated with the M2 impaction.