Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei

Peter S. Ungar, Frederick E. Grine, Mark F. Teaford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei had enormous, flat, thickly enameled check teeth, a robust cranium and mandible, and inferred massive, powerful chewing muscles. This specialized morphology, which earned P. boisei the nickname "Nutcracker Man", suggest that this hominin could have consumed very mechanically challenging foods. It has been recently argued, however, that specialized hominin morphology may indicate adaptations for the consumption of occasional fallback foods rather than preferred resources. Dental microwear offers a potential means by which to test this hypothesis in that it reflects actual use rather than genetic adaptation. High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally and tough foods respectively. Here we present the first quantitative analysis of dental microwear for P. boisei. Seven specimens examined preserved unobscured antemortem molar microwear. These all show relatively low complexity and anisotropy values. This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or touqh foods in the days before they died. The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2044
JournalPLoS One
Volume3
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 30 2008
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Hominidae
Nutrition
Tooth
teeth
Diet
Food
Anisotropy
diet
Mastication
mastication
quantitative analysis
Primates
texture
Mandible
Skull
Muscle
Anatomy
muscles
Textures
Muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei. / Ungar, Peter S.; Grine, Frederick E.; Teaford, Mark F.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 3, No. 4, e2044, 30.04.2008.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Ungar, Peter S. ; Grine, Frederick E. ; Teaford, Mark F. / Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei. In: PLoS One. 2008 ; Vol. 3, No. 4.
@article{81cf560e552a459d9ddf150772e2d030,
title = "Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei",
abstract = "The Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei had enormous, flat, thickly enameled check teeth, a robust cranium and mandible, and inferred massive, powerful chewing muscles. This specialized morphology, which earned P. boisei the nickname {"}Nutcracker Man{"}, suggest that this hominin could have consumed very mechanically challenging foods. It has been recently argued, however, that specialized hominin morphology may indicate adaptations for the consumption of occasional fallback foods rather than preferred resources. Dental microwear offers a potential means by which to test this hypothesis in that it reflects actual use rather than genetic adaptation. High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally and tough foods respectively. Here we present the first quantitative analysis of dental microwear for P. boisei. Seven specimens examined preserved unobscured antemortem molar microwear. These all show relatively low complexity and anisotropy values. This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or touqh foods in the days before they died. The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.",
author = "Ungar, {Peter S.} and Grine, {Frederick E.} and Teaford, {Mark F.}",
year = "2008",
month = "4",
day = "30",
doi = "10.1371/journal.pone.0002044",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "3",
journal = "PLoS One",
issn = "1932-6203",
publisher = "Public Library of Science",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Dental microwear and diet of the Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei

AU - Ungar, Peter S.

AU - Grine, Frederick E.

AU - Teaford, Mark F.

PY - 2008/4/30

Y1 - 2008/4/30

N2 - The Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei had enormous, flat, thickly enameled check teeth, a robust cranium and mandible, and inferred massive, powerful chewing muscles. This specialized morphology, which earned P. boisei the nickname "Nutcracker Man", suggest that this hominin could have consumed very mechanically challenging foods. It has been recently argued, however, that specialized hominin morphology may indicate adaptations for the consumption of occasional fallback foods rather than preferred resources. Dental microwear offers a potential means by which to test this hypothesis in that it reflects actual use rather than genetic adaptation. High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally and tough foods respectively. Here we present the first quantitative analysis of dental microwear for P. boisei. Seven specimens examined preserved unobscured antemortem molar microwear. These all show relatively low complexity and anisotropy values. This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or touqh foods in the days before they died. The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

AB - The Plio-Pleistocene hominin Paranthropus boisei had enormous, flat, thickly enameled check teeth, a robust cranium and mandible, and inferred massive, powerful chewing muscles. This specialized morphology, which earned P. boisei the nickname "Nutcracker Man", suggest that this hominin could have consumed very mechanically challenging foods. It has been recently argued, however, that specialized hominin morphology may indicate adaptations for the consumption of occasional fallback foods rather than preferred resources. Dental microwear offers a potential means by which to test this hypothesis in that it reflects actual use rather than genetic adaptation. High microwear surface texture complexity and anisotropy in extant primates can be associated with the consumption of exceptionally and tough foods respectively. Here we present the first quantitative analysis of dental microwear for P. boisei. Seven specimens examined preserved unobscured antemortem molar microwear. These all show relatively low complexity and anisotropy values. This suggests that none of the individuals consumed especially hard or touqh foods in the days before they died. The apparent discrepancy between microwear and functional anatomy is consistent with the idea that P. boisei presents a hominin example of Liem's Paradox, wherein a highly derived morphology need not reflect a specialized diet.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=44349085901&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=44349085901&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1371/journal.pone.0002044

DO - 10.1371/journal.pone.0002044

M3 - Article

VL - 3

JO - PLoS One

JF - PLoS One

SN - 1932-6203

IS - 4

M1 - e2044

ER -