Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology

Frederick E. Grine, Stefan Judex, David J. Daegling, Engin Ozcivici, Peter S. Ungar, Mark F. Teaford, Matt Sponheimer, Jessica Scott, Robert S. Scott, Alan Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Finite element analysis (FEA) is a potentially powerful tool by which the mechanical behaviors of different skeletal and dental designs can be investigated, and, as such, has become increasingly popular for biomechanical modeling and inferring the behavior of extinct organisms. However, the use of FEA to extrapolate from characterization of the mechanical environment to questions of trophic or ecological adaptation in a fossil taxon is both challenging and perilous. Here, we consider the problems and prospects of FEA applications in paleoanthropology, and provide a critical examination of one such study of the trophic adaptations of Australopithecus africanus. This particular FEA is evaluated with regard to 1) the nature of the A. africanus cranial composite, 2) model validation, 3) decisions made with respect to model parameters, 4) adequacy of data presentation, and 5) interpretation of the results. Each suggests that the results reflect methodological decisions as much as any underlying biological significance. Notwithstanding these issues, this model yields predictions that follow from the posited emphasis on premolar use by A. africanus. These predictions are tested with data from the paleontological record, including a phylogenetically-informed consideration of relative premolar size, and postcanine microwear fabrics and antemortem enamel chipping. In each instance, the data fail to conform to predictions from the model. This model thus serves to emphasize the need for caution in the application of FEA in paleoanthropological enquiry. Theoretical models can be instrumental in the construction of testable hypotheses; but ultimately, the studies that serve to test these hypotheses - rather than data from the models - should remain the source of information pertaining to hominin paleobiology and evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-308
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Volume58
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2010

Fingerprint

biomechanics
paleontology
finite element analysis
prediction
paleobiology
enamel
model validation
composite materials
information sources
source of information
analysis
fossil
teeth
fossils
examination
interpretation
organisms
modeling

Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Australopithecus africanus
  • Biomechanics
  • Diet
  • Enamel chipping
  • Finite element analysis
  • Finite element model
  • Microwear texture analysis
  • Molar
  • Phylogenetic constraint
  • Premolar
  • Validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Grine, F. E., Judex, S., Daegling, D. J., Ozcivici, E., Ungar, P. S., Teaford, M. F., ... Walker, A. (2010). Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology. Journal of Human Evolution, 58(4), 293-308. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.12.001

Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology. / Grine, Frederick E.; Judex, Stefan; Daegling, David J.; Ozcivici, Engin; Ungar, Peter S.; Teaford, Mark F.; Sponheimer, Matt; Scott, Jessica; Scott, Robert S.; Walker, Alan.

In: Journal of Human Evolution, Vol. 58, No. 4, 04.2010, p. 293-308.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Grine, FE, Judex, S, Daegling, DJ, Ozcivici, E, Ungar, PS, Teaford, MF, Sponheimer, M, Scott, J, Scott, RS & Walker, A 2010, 'Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology', Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 293-308. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.12.001
Grine, Frederick E. ; Judex, Stefan ; Daegling, David J. ; Ozcivici, Engin ; Ungar, Peter S. ; Teaford, Mark F. ; Sponheimer, Matt ; Scott, Jessica ; Scott, Robert S. ; Walker, Alan. / Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology. In: Journal of Human Evolution. 2010 ; Vol. 58, No. 4. pp. 293-308.
@article{7490b63c16e94e84933dd3431646437b,
title = "Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology",
abstract = "Finite element analysis (FEA) is a potentially powerful tool by which the mechanical behaviors of different skeletal and dental designs can be investigated, and, as such, has become increasingly popular for biomechanical modeling and inferring the behavior of extinct organisms. However, the use of FEA to extrapolate from characterization of the mechanical environment to questions of trophic or ecological adaptation in a fossil taxon is both challenging and perilous. Here, we consider the problems and prospects of FEA applications in paleoanthropology, and provide a critical examination of one such study of the trophic adaptations of Australopithecus africanus. This particular FEA is evaluated with regard to 1) the nature of the A. africanus cranial composite, 2) model validation, 3) decisions made with respect to model parameters, 4) adequacy of data presentation, and 5) interpretation of the results. Each suggests that the results reflect methodological decisions as much as any underlying biological significance. Notwithstanding these issues, this model yields predictions that follow from the posited emphasis on premolar use by A. africanus. These predictions are tested with data from the paleontological record, including a phylogenetically-informed consideration of relative premolar size, and postcanine microwear fabrics and antemortem enamel chipping. In each instance, the data fail to conform to predictions from the model. This model thus serves to emphasize the need for caution in the application of FEA in paleoanthropological enquiry. Theoretical models can be instrumental in the construction of testable hypotheses; but ultimately, the studies that serve to test these hypotheses - rather than data from the models - should remain the source of information pertaining to hominin paleobiology and evolution.",
keywords = "Adaptation, Australopithecus africanus, Biomechanics, Diet, Enamel chipping, Finite element analysis, Finite element model, Microwear texture analysis, Molar, Phylogenetic constraint, Premolar, Validation",
author = "Grine, {Frederick E.} and Stefan Judex and Daegling, {David J.} and Engin Ozcivici and Ungar, {Peter S.} and Teaford, {Mark F.} and Matt Sponheimer and Jessica Scott and Scott, {Robert S.} and Alan Walker",
year = "2010",
month = "4",
doi = "10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.12.001",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "58",
pages = "293--308",
journal = "Journal of Human Evolution",
issn = "0047-2484",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Craniofacial biomechanics and functional and dietary inferences in hominin paleontology

AU - Grine, Frederick E.

AU - Judex, Stefan

AU - Daegling, David J.

AU - Ozcivici, Engin

AU - Ungar, Peter S.

AU - Teaford, Mark F.

AU - Sponheimer, Matt

AU - Scott, Jessica

AU - Scott, Robert S.

AU - Walker, Alan

PY - 2010/4

Y1 - 2010/4

N2 - Finite element analysis (FEA) is a potentially powerful tool by which the mechanical behaviors of different skeletal and dental designs can be investigated, and, as such, has become increasingly popular for biomechanical modeling and inferring the behavior of extinct organisms. However, the use of FEA to extrapolate from characterization of the mechanical environment to questions of trophic or ecological adaptation in a fossil taxon is both challenging and perilous. Here, we consider the problems and prospects of FEA applications in paleoanthropology, and provide a critical examination of one such study of the trophic adaptations of Australopithecus africanus. This particular FEA is evaluated with regard to 1) the nature of the A. africanus cranial composite, 2) model validation, 3) decisions made with respect to model parameters, 4) adequacy of data presentation, and 5) interpretation of the results. Each suggests that the results reflect methodological decisions as much as any underlying biological significance. Notwithstanding these issues, this model yields predictions that follow from the posited emphasis on premolar use by A. africanus. These predictions are tested with data from the paleontological record, including a phylogenetically-informed consideration of relative premolar size, and postcanine microwear fabrics and antemortem enamel chipping. In each instance, the data fail to conform to predictions from the model. This model thus serves to emphasize the need for caution in the application of FEA in paleoanthropological enquiry. Theoretical models can be instrumental in the construction of testable hypotheses; but ultimately, the studies that serve to test these hypotheses - rather than data from the models - should remain the source of information pertaining to hominin paleobiology and evolution.

AB - Finite element analysis (FEA) is a potentially powerful tool by which the mechanical behaviors of different skeletal and dental designs can be investigated, and, as such, has become increasingly popular for biomechanical modeling and inferring the behavior of extinct organisms. However, the use of FEA to extrapolate from characterization of the mechanical environment to questions of trophic or ecological adaptation in a fossil taxon is both challenging and perilous. Here, we consider the problems and prospects of FEA applications in paleoanthropology, and provide a critical examination of one such study of the trophic adaptations of Australopithecus africanus. This particular FEA is evaluated with regard to 1) the nature of the A. africanus cranial composite, 2) model validation, 3) decisions made with respect to model parameters, 4) adequacy of data presentation, and 5) interpretation of the results. Each suggests that the results reflect methodological decisions as much as any underlying biological significance. Notwithstanding these issues, this model yields predictions that follow from the posited emphasis on premolar use by A. africanus. These predictions are tested with data from the paleontological record, including a phylogenetically-informed consideration of relative premolar size, and postcanine microwear fabrics and antemortem enamel chipping. In each instance, the data fail to conform to predictions from the model. This model thus serves to emphasize the need for caution in the application of FEA in paleoanthropological enquiry. Theoretical models can be instrumental in the construction of testable hypotheses; but ultimately, the studies that serve to test these hypotheses - rather than data from the models - should remain the source of information pertaining to hominin paleobiology and evolution.

KW - Adaptation

KW - Australopithecus africanus

KW - Biomechanics

KW - Diet

KW - Enamel chipping

KW - Finite element analysis

KW - Finite element model

KW - Microwear texture analysis

KW - Molar

KW - Phylogenetic constraint

KW - Premolar

KW - Validation

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=77952951562&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=77952951562&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.12.001

DO - 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.12.001

M3 - Article

C2 - 20227747

AN - SCOPUS:77952951562

VL - 58

SP - 293

EP - 308

JO - Journal of Human Evolution

JF - Journal of Human Evolution

SN - 0047-2484

IS - 4

ER -