Early hominid dental remains from Members 4 and 5 of the Sterkfontein Formation (1966-1996 excavations): catalogue, individual associations, morphological descriptions and initial metrical analysis.

Laboratori di Antropologia, Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica, Università di Firenze via del Proconsolo, 12, 50122 Firenze, Italy.
Journal of Human Evolution (Impact Factor: 3.87). 04/2006; 50(3):239-328. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.08.012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The fossils recovered from the Sterkfontein Formation represent, without doubt, the largest collection of early hominid specimens from a single locality. Among the over 600 entries in the catalogue of fossil hominid specimens recovered since 1966, there are 242 dental remains (isolated teeth, jaws with two or more teeth, isolated teeth in association) for a total number of 495 teeth. The aim of this paper is to provide morphological descriptions of all hominid dental specimens recovered between 1968 and 1996 from areas presently known as Members 4 and 5 of the Sterkfontein site. Together with the descriptions, explanatory catalogue information is provided, along with basic measurements and summary statistics. This paper consists of six sections, with descriptive tables: (1) Catalogue of dental remains, arranged numerically. This includes isolated teeth, specimens with teeth still in position within their jaws, and specimens comprised of isolated teeth in association. (2) List of specimens with more complete dentition and the numbers of available teeth per tooth class. (3) List of specimens subdivided in tooth class, with an indication of their preservation, of the wear, if any, and with measurements (mesiodistal and buccolingual diameters) of the individual teeth. (4) List of associations of isolated teeth as individuals i.e. dental remains that can be associated with one another. Some remarks on the relative abundance of maxillary versus mandibular teeth, and on the numbers of available teeth are presented. (5) Morphological descriptions. (6) Summary statistics for the entire Sterkfontein sample (thus including specimens recovered both before and after 1966) and updated descriptive statistics for South African early hominids (A. africanus, A. robustus, South African early Homo). We have compared the coefficients of variation for the MD and BL diameters of the permanent teeth of the Sterkfontein Member 4 hypodigm of A. africanus with the hypodigms of the early hominid taxa. The results show that the Sterkfontein Member 4 sample is not consistently more variable than the other fossil hominid samples analysed; it turned out to be generally less variable than H. habilis sensu lato and A. boisei; it shows overall similar levels of variability to A. afarensis and higher levels than A. robustus. These results, per se, do not provide evidence of the existence of multiple species in the Sterkfontein Member 4 sample.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We describe a fragmentary, yet significant, diminutive proximal ulna (DNH 109) from the Lower Pleistocene deposits of Drimolen, Republic of South Africa. On the basis of observable morphology and available comparative metrics, DNH 109 is definitively hominin and is the smallest African Plio-Pleistocene australopith ulna yet recovered. Mediolateral and anteroposterior dimensions of the proximal diaphysis immediately distal to the m. brachialis sulcus in DNH 109 yield an elliptical area (π/4 *m-l*a-p) that is smaller than the A.L. 333-38 Australopithecus afarensis subadult from Hadar. Given the unusually broad mediolateral anteroposterior diaphyseal proportions distal to the brachialis sulcus, the osseous development of the medial and lateral borders of the sulcus, and the overall size of the specimen relative to comparative infant, juvenile, subadult and adult comparative hominid ulnae (Gorilla, Pan and Homo), it is probable that DNH 109 samples an australopith of probable juvenile age at death. As a result of the fragmentary state of preservation and absence of association with taxonomically diagnostic craniodental remains, DNH 109 cannot be provisionally assigned to any particular hominin genus (Paranthropus or Homo) at present. Nonetheless, DNH 109 increases our known sample of available Plio-Pleistocene subadult early hominin postcrania.
    South African Journal of Science 06/2011; 107(5-6):101-104. DOI:10.4102/sajs.v107i5/6.456 · 1.03 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Excavations at the Longtan Cave, Hexian, Anhui Province of Eastern China, have yielded several hominin fossils including crania, mandibular fragments, and teeth currently dated to 412±25 ka. While previous studies have focused on the cranial remains, there are no detailed analyses of the dental evidence. In this study, we provide metric and morphological descriptions and comparisons of ten teeth recovered from Hexian, including microcomputed tomography analyses. Our results indicate that the Hexian teeth are metrically and morphologically primitive and overlap with H. ergaster and East Asian Early and mid-Middle Pleistocene hominins in their large dimensions and occlusal complexities. However, the Hexian teeth differ from H. ergaster in features such as conspicuous vertical grooves on the labial/buccal surfaces of the central incisor and the upper premolar, the crown outline shapes of upper and lower molars and the numbers, shapes, and divergences of the roots. Despite their close geological ages, the Hexian teeth are also more primitive than Zhoukoudian specimens, and resemble Sangiran Early Pleistocene teeth. In addition, no typical Neanderthal features have been identified in the Hexian sample. Our study highlights the metrical and morphological primitive status of the Hexian sample in comparison to contemporaneous or even earlier populations of Asia. Based on this finding, we suggest that the primitive-derived gradients of the Asian hominins cannot be satisfactorily fitted along a chronological sequence, suggesting complex evolutionary scenarios with the coexistence and/or survival of different lineages in Eurasia. Hexian could represent the persistence in time of a H. erectus group that would have retained primitive features that were lost in other Asian populations such as Zhoukoudian or Panxian Dadong. Our study expands the metrical and morphological variations known for the East Asian hominins before the mid-Middle Pleistocene and warns about the possibility that the Asian hominin variability may have been taxonomically oversimplified.
    PLoS ONE 12/2014; 9(12):e114265. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0114265 · 3.53 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: It is generally accepted that from the late Middle to the early Late Pleistocene (∼340-90 ka BP), Neanderthals were occupying Europe and Western Asia, whereas anatomically modern humans were present in the African continent. In contrast, the paucity of hominin fossil evidence from East Asia from this period impedes a complete evolutionary picture of the genus Homo, as well as assessment of the possible contribution of or interaction with Asian hominins in the evolution of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. Here we present a comparative study of a hominin dental sample recovered from the Xujiayao site, in Northern China, attributed to the early Late Pleistocene (MIS 5 to 4). Our dental study reveals a mosaic of primitive and derived dental features for the Xujiayao hominins that can be summarized as follows: i) they are different from archaic and recent modern humans, ii) they present some features that are common but not exclusive to the Neanderthal lineage, and iii) they retain some primitive conformations classically found in East Asian Early and Middle Pleistocene hominins despite their young geological age. Thus, our study evinces the existence in China of a population of unclear taxonomic status with regard to other contemporary populations such as H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis. The morphological and metric studies of the Xujiayao teeth expand the variability known for early Late Pleistocene hominin fossils and suggest the possibility that a primitive hominin lineage may have survived late into the Late Pleistocene in China. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 10/2014; 156(2). DOI:10.1002/ajpa.22641 · 2.51 Impact Factor