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J Hum Evol. 2008 Feb;54(2):236-50. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

What molars contribute to an emerging understanding of lateral enamel formation in Neandertals vs. modern humans.

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Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Two hypotheses, based on previous work on Neandertal anterior and premolar teeth, are investigated here: (1) that estimated molar lateral enamel formation times in Neandertals are likely to fall within the range of modern human population variation, and (2) that perikymata (lateral enamel growth increments) are distributed across cervical and occlusal halves of the crown differently in Neandertals than they are in modern humans. To investigate these hypotheses, total perikymata numbers and the distribution of perikymata across deciles of crown height were compared for Neandertal, northern European, and southern African upper molar mesiobuccal (mb) cusps, lower molar mesiobuccal cusps, and the lower first molar distobuccal (db) cusp. Sample sizes range from five (Neandertal M(1)db) to 29 (southern African M(1)mb). Neandertal mean perikymata numbers were found to differ significantly from those of both modern human samples (with the Neandertal mean higher) only for the M(2)mb. Regression analysis suggests that, with the exception of the M(2)mb, the hypothesis of equivalence between Neandertal and modern human lateral enamel formation time cannot be rejected. For the M(2)mb, regression analysis strongly suggests that this cusp took longer to form in the Neandertal sample than it did in the southern African sample. Plots of perikymata numbers across deciles of crown height demonstrate that Neandertal perikymata are distributed more evenly across the cervical and occlusal halves of molar crowns than they are in the modern human samples. These results are integrated into a discussion of Neandertal and modern human lateral enamel formation across the dentition, with reference to issues of life history and enamel growth processes.

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