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

Is dental metric variation more sensitive to differences among regional populations than dental morphology?: a case study from coastal Kenya


Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Wright State University

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The present study examines the concordance between reconstructions of biological distance using nuclear microsatellite, dental morphology, and odontometric data. Previous investigations found a significant and moderate correlation between biodistance matrices based on genetic and dental morphology data, suggesting that: 1) the two datasets can generally provide comparable information about population history even in regionally restricted contexts, but 2) reconstructions of detailed relationships between pairs of populations based on dental morphology are less reliable when variation among groups is low.

Following methods established by Hillson and colleagues, buccolingual crown measurements and diagonal diameters of molars were collected from 295 Kenyan individuals (four populations) and compared with genotypes from fifty microsatellite loci in the same individuals. Biodistance matrices were constructed using a variety of statistics commonly used with dental (e.g., Mahalanobis’ distance) and microsatellite (e.g., Delta Mu) data.

Preliminary results from a sub-sample of the 295 individuals indicate that, though metric data allow for more flexibility in analysis, metric variation was also too low among the four populations to provide much clarity about specific differences between population pairs. These findings underscore the need for new methods of quantifying and analyzing dental variation.

This study was funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Grant (P022A090029), a Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (7962), and the Ohio State University Graduate School.

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