Molar microwear textures and the diets of Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis.

Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Old Main 330, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 6.31). 10/2010; 365(1556):3345-54. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0033
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Many researchers have suggested that Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis were among the earliest hominins to have diets that included hard, brittle items. Here we examine dental microwear textures of these hominins for evidence of this. The molars of three Au. anamensis and 19 Au. afarensis specimens examined preserve unobscured antemortem microwear. Microwear textures of these individuals closely resemble those of Paranthropus boisei, having lower complexity values than Australopithecus africanus and especially Paranthropus robustus. The microwear texture complexity values for Au. anamensis and Au. afarensis are similar to those of the grass-eating Theropithecus gelada and folivorous Alouatta palliata and Trachypithecus cristatus. This implies that these Au. anamensis and Au. afarensis individuals did not have diets dominated by hard, brittle foods shortly before their deaths. On the other hand, microwear texture anisotropy values for these taxa are lower on average than those of Theropithecus, Alouatta or Trachypithecus. This suggests that the fossil taxa did not have diets dominated by tough foods either, or if they did that directions of tooth-tooth movement were less constrained than in higher cusped and sharper crested extant primate grass eaters and folivores.

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