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The Evolution of Human Cervical Lordosis

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Many of the derived features of the human skeleton can be divided into two adaptive suites: traits related to bipedalism and traits related to encephalization. The cervical spine connects these

Many of the derived features of the human skeleton can be divided into two adaptive suites: traits related to bipedalism and traits related to encephalization. The cervical spine connects these adaptive suites and is itself unique in its marked lordosis. I approach human cervical evolution from three directions: the functional significance of cervical curvature, the identification of cervical lordosis in osteological material, and the representation of the cervical spine in the hominin fossil record.

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  • 2014-05

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A dental topographic analysis of deciduous tooth wear in hominoids

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Early weaning, slow somatic and dental growth, and late age at reproduction are all part of a suite of energetic trade-offs that have shaped human evolution. A similar suite of

Early weaning, slow somatic and dental growth, and late age at reproduction are all part of a suite of energetic trade-offs that have shaped human evolution. A similar suite of energetic trade-offs has shaped the evolution of the indriid-palaeopropithecid clade, though members of this clade exhibit extremely fast dental development and nearly vestigial deciduous teeth. The development and functional occlusion of the primary postcanine dentition (i.e., deciduous premolars and molars) coincides with several life history parameters in great apes and indriids. This dissertation explored great ape dental macrowear, molar development in indriids, and molar size in lemurs with a broader goal of improving reconstructions of life history profiles in extinct primates. To this aim, macrowear and dental development were analyzed in apes and lemurs, respectively. Occlusal casts (six great ape species; N=278) were scanned to track mandibular fourth deciduous premolar (dp4) macrowear. Utilizing dental topographic analyses, changes in occlusal gradient and terrain were quantified. A subset of the great ape data (four species; n=199) was analyzed to test if differences in dp4 wear correlate with age at weaning. Using dental histology, molar development was reconstructed for Indri indri (n=1) and Avahi laniger (n=1). Life history and molar size data were collected from the literature. The results of this dissertation demonstrate that most great apes exhibited evidence of topographic maintenance, suggesting dp4s wear in a manner that maintain functional efficiency during growth and development; however, the manner in which maintenance is achieved (e.g., preservation of relief or complexity) is species specific. Dp4 macrowear is not correlated with age at weaning in great apes and is probably unreliable to reconstruct age at weaning in hominins. The pace of molar development in members of the indriid- palaeopropithecid clade did not correlate with body or brain size, an association present in several other primates. Associations of molar size with age at weaning suggest that expanding other developmental models (e.g., the inhibitory cascade) to life history is worth consideration. The broad variation in macrowear, dental development, and size highlights how the primary dentition may correlate with different life history parameters depending on the species and ecological setting, an important consideration when using teeth to reconstruct life history profiles.

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  • 2016