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. Journal of Human Evolution, 50, 239-328

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: 3.73). 04/2006; 50(3):239-328. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.08.012
Source: PubMed


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.

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Available from: Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi, Jun 15, 2015
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    • "The relative warps analysis of M 2 s reveals a general overlapping of most hominin species. Earlier species plot at the negative half for PC1, and they have similar morphologies (Wood and Engleman, 1988; Tobias, 1991; Moggi-Cecchi et al., 2006; Martinón-Torres et al., 2008), at least in the general disposition of the four main cusps. On the contrary, latest Homo species show the complete range from fully developed 4-cusped molars to strongly reduced molars with only three cusps, but they are the only ones showing the reduced conformation. "
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    ABSTRACT: The study of dental morphology by means of geometric morphometric methods allows for a detailed and quantitative comparison of hominin species that is useful for taxonomic assignment and phylogenetic reconstruction. Upper second and third molars have been studied in a comprehensive sample of Plio- and Pleistocene hominins from African, Asian and European sites in order to complete our analysis of the upper postcanine dentition. Intraspecific variation in these two molars is high, but some interspecific trends can be identified. Both molars exhibit a strong reduction of the distal cusps in recent hominin species, namely European Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens, but this reduction shows specific patterns and proportions in the three groups. Second molars tend to show four well developed cusps in earlier hominin species and their morphology is only marginally affected by allometric effects. Third molars can be incipiently reduced in earlier species and they evince a significant allometric component, identified both inter- and intraspecifically. European Middle Pleistocene fossils from Sima de los Huesos (SH) show a very strong reduction of these two molars, even more marked than the reduction observed in Neanderthals and in modern human populations. The highly derived shape of SH molars points to an early acquisition of typical Neanderthal dental traits by pre-Neanderthal populations and to a deviation of this population from mean morphologies of other European Middle Pleistocene groups.
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    • "Similarly, at Sterkfontein, SE 255 derives from Member 5 " West " and while it might represent H. erectus, many workers have considered it to represent the same species as Stw 53 (i.e., something with closer affinities to Homo habilis). Of course, the Member 5 deposit is not a single deposit, and it does contain material that is most likely attributable to H. erectus (e.g., the Stw 80 mandible from Member 5 " West " [Kuman and Clarke, 2000; Moggi-Cecchi et al., 2006]). Thus, while it is not unreasonable to place SE 255 in the H. erectus sample as we have done, we wish to point out that there is a controversy over the species attribution in Sterkfontein Member 5. "
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    ABSTRACT: Sangiran (Solo Basin, Central Java, Indonesia) is the singular Homo erectus fossil locale for Early Pleistocene Southeast Asia. Sangiran is the source for more than 80 specimens in deposits with (40)Ar/(39)Ar ages of 1.51-0.9 Ma. In April 2001, we recovered a H. erectus left maxilla fragment (preserving P(3)- M(2)) from the Sangiran site of Bapang. The find spot lies at the base of the Bapang Formation type section in cemented gravelly sands traditionally called the Grenzbank Zone. Two meters above the find spot, pumice hornblende has produced an (40)Ar/(39)Ar age of 1.51 ± 0.08 Ma. With the addition of Bpg 2001.04, Sangiran now has five H. erectus maxillae. We compare the new maxilla with homologs representing Sangiran H. erectus, Zhoukoudian H. erectus, Western H. erectus (pooled African and Georgian specimens), and Homo habilis. Greatest contrast is with the Zhoukoudian maxillae, which appear to exhibit a derived pattern of premolar-molar relationships compared to Western and Sangiran H. erectus. The dental patterns suggest distinct demic origins for the earlier H. erectus populations represented at Sangiran and the later population represented at Zhoukoudian. These two east Asian populations, separated by 5000 km and nearly 800 k.yr., may have had separate origins from different African/west Eurasian populations.
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    • "Author's personal copy 1999; Brain, 1981) including the important hominin remains of Paranthropus robustus (Member 5b), early Homo (Member 5c), Australopithecus africanus (Member 4) (Lockwood and Tobias, 2002; Moggi-Cecchi et al., 2006 "
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    ABSTRACT: Sterkfontein Caves is the single richest early hominin site in the world with deposits yielding one or more species of Australopithecus and possible early Homo, as well as an extensive faunal collection. The inability to date the southern African cave sites accurately or precisely has hindered attempts to integrate the hominin fossil evidence into pan-African scenarios about human evolutionary history, and especially hominin biogeography. We have used U-Pb and U-Th techniques to date sheets of calcium carbonate flowstone inter-bedded between the fossiliferous sediments. For the first time, absolute age ranges can be assigned to the fossil-bearing deposits: Member 2 is between 2.8 +/- 0.28 and 2.6 +/- 0.30 Ma and Member 4 between 2.65 +/- 0.30 and 2.01 +/- 0.05 Ma. The age of 2.01 +/- 0.05 Ma for the top of Member 4 constrains the last appearance of Australopithecus africanus to 2 Ma. In the Silberberg Grotto we have reproduced the U-Pb age of approximately 2.2 Ma of for the flowstones associated with StW573. We believe that these deposits, including the fossil and the flowstones, accumulated rapidly around 2.2 Ma. The stratigraphy of the site is complex as sediments are exposed both in the underground chambers and at surface. We present a new interpretation of the stratigraphy based on surface mapping, boreholes logs and U-Pb ages. Every effort was made to retain the Member system, however, only Members 2 and 4 are recognized in the boreholes. We propose that the deposits formally known as Member 3 are in fact the distal equivalents of Member 4. The sediments of Members 2 and 4 consisted of cone-like deposits and probably never filled up the cave. The U-Th ages show that there are substantial deposits younger than 400 ka in the underground cave, underlying the older deposits, highlighting again that these cave fills are not simple layer-cakes.
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