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Title: Dental pathology, wear and developmental defects in South African hominins
Author: Towle, I. E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6425 3963
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2017
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Studying different types of dental pathology, wear, and developmental defects can allow inferences into diet and behaviour in a variety of ways. In this project data on these different variables were collected for South African hominins and compared with extant primates. The species studied include Paranthropus robustus, Australopithecus africanus, A. sediba, early Homo, Homo naledi, baboons, chimpanzees and gorillas. Macroscopic examination of each specimen was performed, with a 10X hand lens used to verify certain pathologies. Variables recorded include antemortem chipping, enamel hypoplasia, caries, occlusal wear, tertiary dentine, abscesses, and periodontal disease. Clear differences in frequencies were found in the different South African hominin species. Homo naledi displays high rates of chipping, especially small fractures above molar wear facets, likely reflecting a diet containing high levels of contaminants. Other noteworthy results include the high levels of pitting enamel hypoplasia in P. robustus molars compared to other species, likely due to a species-specific enamel formation property or developmental disturbance. The low rates of chipping in P. robustus does not fit with this species being a hard food specialist. Instead, the wear best supports a diet of low-quality tough vegetation. Australopithecus africanus likely had a broad diet, with angled molar wear, lack of caries, and high chipping frequencies supporting this conclusion. Seven new carious lesions are described, two from H. naledi and five P. robustus. Other, rarer, pathologies are also highlighted, including abscesses in an early Homo individual, root grooves caused by erosive wear in A. africanus and a case of amelogenesis imperfecta in a female chimpanzee. The main conclusion from this thesis as a whole is the substantial difference in frequencies of the different variables among hominin species, supporting the proposition that their diets differed substantially.
Supervisor: Irish, J. D. ; De Groote, I. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: QH Natural history ; QL Zoology ; RK Dentistry