The Ratón Pérez collection: Modern deciduous human teeth at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (Burgos, Spain)

Objectives The aim of this report is to present the large deciduous tooth collection of identified children that is housed at the National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH) in Burgos, Spain. Methods Yearly, members of the Dental Anthropology Group of the CENIEH are in charge of collecting the teeth and registering all the relevant information from the donors at the time of collection. In compliance with Spanish Law 14/2007 of July 3, 2007, on Biomedical Research (BOE-A-2007-12945), all individuals are guaranteed anonymity and confidentiality. When the donor hands in the tooth, they fill out a Donor Information Form and sign the Informed Consent Form. At the same time, another person completes the data label for the transparent polyethylene zip lock bag where the tooth is temporarily stored. All teeth are then transferred to the CENIEH Restoration lab, where the specialists apply the same protocol as for the fossil remains. Results Although the sample is still growing, from the first collection campaign in 2014 to date it comprises 2977 teeth of children whose ages of tooth loss are between 2 and 15 years. Each tooth is associated with basic information of the individuals and their parents and grandparents (sex, date, and place of birth, ancestry, country of residence), as well as important data about early life history (pregnancy duration, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding) and other relevant information provided by the donors (such as if they are twins, dental loss, or dental extraction). Conclusions Due to the scarcity of deciduous dental samples available, the Ratón Pérez collection represents a highly valuable sample for a wide range of disciplines such as forensic, dental, and anthropological fields among others.

Comparative dental study between Homo antecessor and Chinese Homo erectus: Nonmetric features and geometric morphometrics

The Chinese Middle Pleistocene fossils from Hexian, Xichuan, Yiyuan, and Zhoukoudian have been generally classified as Homo erectus s.s. These hominins share some primitive features with other Homo specimens, but they also display unique cranial and dental traits. Thus, the Chinese Middle Pleistocene hominins share with other European and Asian hominin populations the so-called ‘Eurasian dental pattern’. The late Early Pleistocene hominins from Gran Dolina-TD6.2 (Spain), representing the species Homo antecessor, also exhibit the Eurasian dental pattern, which may suggest common roots. To assess phylogenetic affinities of these two taxa, we evaluated and compared nonmetric and metric dental features and interpreted morphological differences within a comparative hominin framework. We determined that the robust roots of the molars, the shelf-like protostylid, the dendrite-like pattern of the enamel-dentine junction surface of the upper fourth premolars and molars, the strongly folded dentine of the labial surface of the upper incisors, and the rare occurrence of a mid-trigonid crest in the lower molars, are all characteristic of Chinese H. erectus. With regard to H. antecessor, we observed the consistent expression of a continuous mid-trigonid crest, the absence of a cingulum in the upper canines, a complex root pattern of the lower premolars, and a rhomboidal occlusal contour and occlusal polygon and protrusion in the external outline of a large a bulging hypocone in the first and second upper molars. Using two-dimensional geometric morphometrics, we further demonstrated that H. antecessor falls outside the range of variation of Chinese H. erectus for occlusal crown outline shape, the orientation of occlusal grooves, and relative locations of anterior and posterior foveae in the P4s, P3s, M1s, M2s, and M2s. Given their geographic and temporal separation, the differences between these two species suggest their divergence occurred at some point in the Early Pleistocene, and thereafter they followed different evolutionary paths.

Testing the inhibitory cascade model in a recent human sample

The Inhibitory Cascade Model was proposed by Kavanagh and colleagues (Nature, 449, 427–433 [2007]) after their experimental studies on the dental development of murine rodent species. These authors described an activator–inhibitor mechanism that has been employed to predict evolutionary size patterns of mammalian teeth, including hominins. In the present study, we measured the crown area of the three lower permanent molars (M1, M2, and M3) of a large recent modern human sample of male and female individuals from a collection preserved at the Institute of Anthropology of the University of Coimbra (Portugal). The main aim of the present study is to test if the size molar patterns observed in this human sample fits the Inhibitory Cascade Model. For this purpose, we first measured the crown area in those individuals preserving the complete molar series. Measurements were taken in photographs, using a planimeter and following well-tested techniques used in previous works. We then plot the M3/M1 and M2/M1 size ratios. Our results show that the premise of the Inhibitory Cascade Model, according to which the average of the crown area of M2 is approximately one-third of the sum of the crown area of the three molars, is fulfilled. However, our results also show that the individual values of a significant number of males and females are out of the 95% confidence interval predicted by the Inhibitory Cascade Model in rodents. As a result, the present analyses suggest that neither the sample of males, nor that of females, nor the pooled sample fits the Inhibitory Cascade Model. It is important to notice that, although this model has been successfully tested in a large number of current human populations, to the best of our knowledge this is the first study in which individual data have been obtained in a recent human population rather than using the average of the sample. Our results evince that, at the individual level, some factors not yet known could interfere with this model masking the modulation of the size on the molar series in modern humans. We suggest that the considerable delay in the onset of M3 formation in modern humans could be related to a weakening of the possible activation/inhibition process for this tooth. Finally, and in support of our conclusions, we have checked that the absolute and relative size of M1 and M2 is not related to the M3 agenesis in our sample. In line with other studies in primates, our results do not support the Inhibitory Cascade Model in a recent human sample. Further research is needed to better understand the genetic basis of this mechanism and its relationship to the phenotype. In this way, we may be able to find out which evolutionary changes may be responsible for the deviations observed in many species, including Homo sapiens.

Indicators of sexual dimorphism in Homo antecessor permanent canines

One of the main concerns of paleoanthropologists is to make a correct interpretation of the variability observed in the fossil record. However, the current knowledge about sexual dimorphism in the human lineage comes mainly from the study of modern human, Neanderthal and pre-Neanderthal populations, whereas information available about the intrapopulation variability of the groups that preceded these taxa is still ambiguous. In this preliminary study, Homo antecessor dental sample was assessed with the aim of trying to evaluate the degree of variability of their permanent canines` dental tissue proportions. Microtomographic techniques were here employed in order to measure and compare the crown volumes and surface areas of their enamel caps and dentine-pulp complexes. Then, the Pearson`s Coefficient of Variation and the Euclidean Distance were assessed to evaluate of intrapopulation variability of Gran Dolina TD6.2 dental sample. The values obtained were also compared with those of the dental samples from Sima de los Huesos site (Spain), the Neanderthal site of Krapina (Croatia), as well as from a broad forensic collection of known sex. Our results showed a marked intrapopulation variability in the dental tissues measurements of the canines of the individuals H1 and H3 from this site. This variability may be interpreted as an indicator of sexual dimorphism. If this is the case, H1 may be considered as a male individual, whereas H3 would be a female. Future discoveries of new fossils in the level TD6.2 of Gran Dolina site might help to confirm or refute this hypothesis.

Testing the inhibitory cascade model in the Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) hominin sample

The Middle Pleistocene Sima de los Huesos (SH) site has yielded more than 7.500 human fossil remains belonging to a minimum of 29 individuals. Most of these individuals preserve either the complete mandibular molar series or at least the first (M1) and second (M2) molars. The inhibitory cascade mathematical model was proposed by Kavanagh et al. (Nature, 449, 427–433 [2007]) after their experimental studies on the dental development of murine rodent species. The activator–inhibitor mechanism of this model has shown its ability for predicting evolutionary size patterns of mammalian teeth, including hominins. The main aim of this study is to test whether the size molar patterns observed in the SH hominins fit the inhibitory cascade model. With this purpose, we have measured the crown area of all SH molars in photographs, using a planimeter and following techniques used and well contrasted in previous works. Following one of the premises of the inhibitory cascade model, we expect that the central tooth (M2 in our case) of a triplet would have the average size of the two outer teeth. The absolute difference between the observed and the expected values for the M2s ranges from 0.23 to 8.46 mm2 in the SH sample. In terms of percentage, the difference ranges between 0.25% and 10.34%, although in most cases, it is below 5%. The plot of the estimated M3/M1 and M2/M1 size ratios obtained in the SH hominins occupies a small area of the theoretical developmental morphospace obtained for rodent species. In addition, the majority of the values are placed near the theoretical line which defines the relationship predicted by the inhibitory cascade model in these mammals. The values of the slope and intercept of the reduced major regression obtained for the SH individuals do not differ significantly from those obtained for rodent species, thus confirming that the size of the molars of the SH hominins fits the inhibitory cascade model. We discuss these results in terms of dental development. Despite the promising results in the SH sample, we draw the attention to the fact that most Early Pleistocene Homo specimens exhibit a pattern (M1 < M2 > M3), which is outside the expected theoretical morphospace predicted by the inhibitory cascade model. The shift from the M1 < M2 < M3 size relationship observed in early hominins (including H. habilis) to the M1 > M2 > M3 size relationship, which is predominant in modern humans, includes sequences that depart from predictions of the inhibitory cascade model. Additional studies are required to understand these deviations.