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.

New permanent teeth from Gran Dolina-TD6 (Sierra de Atapuerca). The bearing of Homo antecessor on the evolutionary scenario of Early and Middle Pleistocene Europe

Here we analyze the unpublished hominin dental remains recovered from the late Early Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD6.2 level of the Sierra de Atapuerca (northern Spain), as well as provide a reassessment of the whole TD6.2 hominin dental sample. Comparative descriptions of the outer enamel surface (OES) and the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) are provided. Overall, the data presented here support the taxonomic validity of Homo antecessor, since this species presents a unique mosaic of traits. Homo antecessor displays several primitive features for the genus Homo as well as some traits exclusively shared with Early and Middle Pleistocene Eurasian hominins. Some of these Eurasian traits were retained by the Middle Pleistocene hominins of Europe, and subsequently became the typical condition of the Neanderthal lineage. Although other skeletal parts present resemblances with Homo sapiens, TD6.2 teeth do not show any synapomorphy with modern humans. In addition, TD6.2 teeth can be well differentiated from those of Asian Homo erectus. The dental evidence is compatible with previous hypothesis about H. antecessor belonging to the basal population from which H. sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and Denisovans emerged. Future findings and additional research may help to elucidate the precise phylogenetic link among them.

Early Pleistocene hominin deciduous teeth from the Homo antecessor Gran Dolina-TD6 bearing level (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain)

Objectives. During the last 13 years, the late Early Pleistocene Gran Dolina-TD6-2 level (Sierra de Atapuerca, northern Spain) has yielded an additional sample of 26 dental specimens attributed to Homo antecessor. In this report, we present a descriptive and comparative study of the six deciduous teeth. Methods. We provide external and internal morphological descriptions following classical terminology, as well as the mesiodistal and buccolingual measurements of the teeth. The internal morphology was described by means of micro-CT technique. Results. The TD6 deciduous teeth preserve primitive features regarding the Homo clade, such as the presence of styles in lower and upper canines and developed anterior and posterior foveae in the dm2. However, other features related to the complexity of the crown morphology (e.g., cingulum) are not present in this sample. Furthermore, the great reduction of the talonid of the dm1s is also noteworthy. Despite the limited comparative evidence, the presence of a remarkably well-developed tuberculum molare in the dm1 and dm1s from TD6 can be also considered a derived feature in the genus Homo. The TD6 hominins exhibit dental dimensions similar to those of other Pleistocene hominins. The dm1s are buccolingually elongated and the buccolingual diameter of ATD6-93 is the largest recorded so far in the Homo fossil record. Conclusions. This study expands the list of plesiomorphic features of H. antecessor, and provides some information on the evolutionary status of this species. However, the identification of some advanced traits evinces a step towards the derived morphology of European Pleistocene teeth. The study of the deciduous dentition confirms the mosaic pattern of H. antecessor morphology revealed in previous studies of this hominin sample.