The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Mastication-related and age-related changes in the dentognathic apparatus of hominoids


1Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich, 2Geology, Georgian National Museum

Friday 11:15-11:30, Ballroom C Add to calendar

Mastication in hominoids is a process with a complex biomechanical basis. Several degrees of freedom permit the mandible to move in relation to the skull while teeth interact with the food by means of masticatory muscle action. Additionally, dental arcades define occlusal planes exhibiting specific geometries, which are functionally relevant for the biomechanics of mastication. Mastication as well as general processes of aging lead to dental attrition and dentognathic pathologies, which are major factors triggering dentoalveolar remodeling. Dentoalveolar remodeling can be understood as mechanisms of in-vivo modification maintaining dentognathic homeostasis for optimal masticatory function. Here we study patterns of dentoalveolar remodeling resulting in modification of the occlusal plane geometry and ask whether these patterns are similar in humans and great apes, or whether they reflect taxon-specific mechanisms of mastication, food processing, and aging. Studying these modifications in extant hominoids is crucial for interpreting dentognathic morphologies of fossil hominins in terms of function, taxonomy and phylogeny. We use CT data of a sample of N=108 adult skulls (exhibiting a wide intraspecific range of dental wear) of Homo sapiens, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo pygmaeus, and apply geometric morphometrics to quantify three-dimensional occlusal surface geometry. Our results indicate that processes and patterns of dentoalveolar remodeling during adulthood have a common phylogenetic basis in all the hominoid species, independent of species attribution, architecture of the masticatory system, and type of diet.

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