Molar biomechanical function in South African hominins Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus

Journal article


Berthaume, M. and Kupczik, K. (2021). Molar biomechanical function in South African hominins Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus. Interface Focus. 11 (5), p. 20200085. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2020.0085
AuthorsBerthaume, M. and Kupczik, K.
AbstractDiet is a driving force in human evolution. Two species of Plio-Pleistocene hominins, Paranthropus robustus and Australopithecus africanus , have derived craniomandibular and dental morphologies which are often interpreted as P. robustus having a more biomechanically challenging diet. While dietary reconstructions based on dental microwear generally support this, they show extensive dietary overlap between species, and craniomandibular and dental biomechanical analyses can yield contradictory results. Using methods from anthropology and engineering (i.e. anthroengineering), we quantified the molar biomechanical performance of these hominins to investigate possible dietary differences between them. Thirty-one lower second molars were 3D printed and used to fracture gelatine blocks, and Bayesian generalized linear models were used to investigate the relationship between species and tooth wear, size and shape, and biomechanical performance. Our results demonstrate that P. robustus required more force and energy to fracture blocks but had a higher force transmission rate. Considering previous dietary reconstructions, we propose three evolutionary scenarios concerning the dietary ecologies of these hominins. These evolutionary scenarios cannot be reached by investigating morphological differences in isolation, but require combining several lines of evidence. This highlights the need for a holistic approach to reconstructing hominin dietary ecology.
KeywordsBiotechnology; Biophysics; Biochemistry; Bioengineering; Biomaterials; Biomedical Engineering
Year2021
JournalInterface Focus
Journal citation11 (5), p. 20200085
PublisherThe Royal Society
ISSN2042-8901
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2020.0085
Funder/ClientMax-Planck-Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie
Publication dates
Online13 Aug 2021
Print06 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Sep 2021
Accepted author manuscript
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File Access Level
Open
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