The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Determining sources of dental microwear texture variation in anthropoids


Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

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Hominin species have very different amounts of variation in dental microwear textures (DMT), but it is unclear how much of this variation is due to differences in diet and how much to other causes of microwear variation such as habitat, e.g., living in a dry dusty environment, or sampling from across time for a single species. Determining the sources of variation in microwear is important for understanding the dietary niche breadth of a species.

To understand the amount of variation within and among closely related fossil species, an analysis of DMT from modern taxa must be conducted to consider site, seasonal and time variation within individual species. I compared variation of four DMT variables in a sample of anthropoid primates using Levene’s test. Overall, most species did not differ significantly in DMT variation, although complexity (Asfc) in Cebus apella was significantly greater than other species in the sample. Cebus apella may have greater variation because of a more varied diet, but individuals from different sites, seasons, and years may also have increased the variation in this sample. In contrast, the species with the most homogeneous collection background had the lowest variation in two of four variables considered; this low variation may arise from the homogeneous sample or from low variation in diet. These results indicate the need for examination of more species obtained as homogeneous specimens in order to assess the contribution of diet breadth versus habitat, season, and temporal variation to overall species DMT variation.

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