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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2009 Jan;138(1):112-8. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20898.

Brief communication: dental development and enamel thickness in the Lakonis Neanderthal molar.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Human Evolution, Leipzig, Germany.


Developmental and structural affinities between modern human and Neanderthal dental remains continue to be a subject of debate as well as their utility for informing assessments of life history and taxonomy. Excavation of the Middle Paleolithic cave site Lakonis in southern Greece has yielded a lower third molar (LKH 1). Here, we detail the crown development and enamel thickness of the distal cusps of the LKH 1 specimen, which has been classified as a Neanderthal based on the presence of an anterior fovea and mid-trigonid crest. Crown formation was determined using standard histological techniques, and enamel thickness was measured from a virtual plane of section. Developmental differences include thinner cuspal enamel and a lower periodicity than modern humans. Crown formation in the LKH 1 hypoconid is estimated to be 2.6-2.7 years, which is shorter than modern human times. The LKH 1 hypoconid also shows a more rapid overall crown extension rate than modern humans. Relative enamel thickness was approximately half that of a modern human sample mean; enamel on the distal cusps of modern human third molars is extremely thick in absolute and relative terms. These findings are consistent with recent studies that demonstrate differences in crown development, tissue proportions, and enamel thickness between Neanderthals and modern humans. Although overlap in some developmental variables may be found, the results of this and other studies suggest that Neanderthal molars formed in shorter periods of time than modern humans, due in part to thinner enamel and faster crown extension rates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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