Modern humans sex estimation through dental tissue patterns of maxillary canines

Objectives Dental tissue proportions of human permanent canines is one of only a few sexually dimorphic features that is present in childhood and maintained in adults, offering the opportunity for this to be used in sex determination. This study assesses dental tissue volumes and surface areas of maxillary permanent canines in a sample of known sex to provide new data and to explore the potential of these variables as reliable sexual estimators. Materials and methods The teeth studied here derive from 56 individuals (27 females and 29 males) of known sex and age, and of different geographic origins. The teeth were scanned and three-dimensional (3D) measurements (volumes and surface areas) were obtained. In addition, a discriminant function analysis was applied. Results The results presented here concur with those previously published in relation to both size and dental tissue patterns. Male maxillary canines have a greater dentine component, whereas female enamel is thicker, leading to a difference in dental size in favor of males. Discriminant functions were calculated using these histological variables successfully identifying sex in between 87.5% and 93.75% of the known-sex hold-out sample, with 92.3% correctly assigned when all functions were applied together. Discussion The present study supports that methods for sex determination based on dental tissue measurements can achieve high allocation accuracies, being especially useful in the case of subadults or when no other appropriate method is available.

Tooth crown tissue proportions and enamel thickness in Early Pleistocene Homo antecessor molars (Atapuerca, Spain)

Tooth crown tissue proportions and enamel thickness distribution are considered reliable characters for inferring taxonomic identity, phylogenetic relationships, dietary and behavioural adaptations in fossil and extant hominids. While most Pleistocene hominins display variations from thick to hyper-thick enamel, Neanderthals exhibit relatively thinner. However, the chronological and geographical origin for the appearance of this typical Neanderthal condition is still unknown. The European late Early Pleistocene species Homo antecessor (Gran Dolina-TD6 site, Sierra de Atapuerca) represents an opportunity to investigate the appearance of the thin condition in the fossil record. In this study, we aim to test the hypothesis if H. antecessor molars approximates the Neanderthal condition for tissue proportions and enamel thickness. To do so, for the first time we characterised the molar inner structural organization in this Early Pleistocene hominin taxon (n = 17) and compared it to extinct and extant populations of the genus Homo from African, Asian and European origin (n = 355). The comparative sample includes 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 TD6 molars (tissue proportions, enamel thickness and distribution). TD6 permanent molars tend to exhibit on average thick absolute and relative enamel in 2D and 3D estimates, both in the complete crown and the lateral enamel. This condition is shared with the majority of extinct and extant hominin sample, except for Neanderthals and some isolated specimens. However, while the total crown percentage of dentine in TD6 globally resembles the low modern values, the lateral crown percentage of dentine tends to be much higher, closer to the Neanderthal signal. Similarly, the H. antecessor molar enamel distribution maps reveal a relative distribution pattern that is more similar to the Neanderthal condition (with the thickest enamel more spread at the periphery of the occlusal basin) rather than that of other fossil specimens and modern humans (with thicker cuspal enamel). Future studies on European Middle Pleistocene populations will provide more insights into the evolutionary trajectory of the typical Neanderthal dental structural organization.

Contribution of dental tissues to sex determination in modern human populations

Objectives Accurate sex estimation is an essential step for the reconstruction of the biological profile of human remains. Earlier studies have shown that elements of the human permanent dentition are sexually dimorphic. The aims of this study are to determine the degree of sexual dimorphism in the dental tissue volumes and surface areas of mandibular canines and to explore its potential for reliable sex determination. Method The teeth included in this study (n = 69) were selected from anthropological collections from Spain, South Africa and Sudan. In all cases, the sex of the individuals was known. The teeth were scanned and three-dimensional (3D) measurements (volumes and surfaces areas) were obtained. Finally, a dsicriminant function analysis was applied. Results Our results showed that sexual dimorphism in canine size is due to males having greater amounts of dentine, whereas enamel volume does not contribute significantly to overall tooth size dimorphism. Classification accuracy of the multivariable equations tested on slightly worn teeth ranged from 78 to 90.2% for the crossvalidation, and from 71.43 to 84.62% for the hold-out sample validation. When all functions were applied together, the sex was correctly assigned 92.30% of the time. Conclusions Our results suggest that the 3D variables from mandibular canine dental tissues are useful for sex determination as they present a high degree of dimorphism. The results obtained show the importance of 3D dental tissue measurements as a methodology in sex determination, which application should be considered as a supplemental method to others.

A reassessment of the Montmaurin-La Niche mandible (Haute Garonne, France) in the context of European Pleistocene human evolution

We here present a comparative study of the Montmaurin-LN Middle Pleistocene mandible (Haute-Garonne, France). This mandible, of which its right and left molar series are preserved in situ, was found in La Niche cave (Montmaurin’s karst system) in 1949, and was first attributed to the ‘Mindel-Riss’ interglacial (= MIS 9 to 11) based on its geological context. Later studies based on geological and faunal evidence have attributed the Montmaurin-LN mandible to MIS 7. Following a detailed morphological and metric comparative study of the mandible in the 1970s, it was interpreted in the light of a still limited fossil record and the prevailing paradigm back then. Waiting for geochronological studies in the forthcoming years, here we review the main morphological and metrical features of this mandible and its molars, which have been reassessed in the framework of a remarkably enlarged Pleistocene fossil record since the mandible was first described, and our current, more in-depth understanding of human evolution in Europe. Using a selection of mandibular features with potential taxonomic signal we have found that the Montmaurin-LN mandible shares only a few derived traits with Neandertals. Our analyses reveal that this mandible is more closely related to the ancient specimens from the African and Eurasian Early and Middle Pleistocene, particularly due to the presence of primitive features of the Homo clade. In contrast, the external morphology of the molars is clearly similar to that of Neandertals. The results are assessed in the light of the present competing hypotheses used to explain the European hominin fossil record.