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J Hum Evol. 2009 Dec;57(6):739-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.07.007. Epub 2009 Oct 28.

Testing hypotheses of dietary reconstruction from buccal dental microwear in Australopithecus afarensis.

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Secc. Antropologia, Department Biologia Animal, Fac. Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avgda. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


A recent study of occlusal microwear in Australopithecus afarensis described this species as an opportunistic dweller, living in both forested and open environments and greatly relying on fallback resources and using fewer food-processing activities than previously suggested. In the present study, analysis of buccal microwear variability in a sample of A. afarensis specimens (n=75 teeth) showed no significant correlations with the ecological shift that took place around 3.5Ma in Africa. These results are consistent with the occlusal microwear data available. In fact, significant correlations between buccal and occlusal microwear variables were found. However, comparison of the buccal microwear patterns showed clear similarities between A. afarensis and those hominoid species living in somewhat open environments, especially the Cameroon gorillas. A diet based mainly on succulent fruits and seasonal fallback resources would be consistent with the buccal microwear patterns observed.

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