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Title: Taxonomic assessment of the Trinil molars using non-destructive 3D structural and development analysis
Authors: Smith, Tanya M.
Olejniczak, Anthony J.
Kupczik, Kornelius
Lazzari, Vincent
Vos, John de
Kullmer, Ottmar
Schrenk, Friedemann
Hublin, Jean-Jacques
Yakob, Teuku
Tafforeau, Paul
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Paleoanthropology Society‏
Citation: Paleoanthropology, 2009, 117-129
Abstract: Two molars recovered at Trinil, Java, have been the subject of more than a century of debate since their discovery by Eugène Dubois in 1891–92. These molars have been a;ributed to several ape and human taxa (including Pan and Meganthropus), although most studies agree that they are either fossil Pongo or Homo erectus molars. Complicating the assessment of these molars is the metric and morphological similarity of Pongo and Homo erectus molars, and uncertainty regarding their serial positions within the maxillary row. Here we applied non‑destructive conventional and synchrotron microtomographic imaging to measure the structure of these molars and aspects of their development. Comparisons were made with modern Homo and Pongo maxillary molars, as well as small samples of fossil Pongo and Homo erectus molars. Root spread was calculated from three‑dimensional surface models, and enamel thickness and enamel‑dentine junction morphology were assessed from virtual planes of section. Developmental features were investigated using phase contrast X‑ray synchrotron imaging. The highly splayed root morphology of the Trinil maxillary molars suggests that they are not third or fourth molars. Trinil molar enamel thickness is most similar to Homo sapiens and Homo erectus first molar mean values, and is thicker than most modern Pongo molars. The shapes of their enamel‑dentine junctions are outside the Pongo range of variation, and within the range of variation in Homo. Moreover, the internal long‑period line periodicity of these two teeth is most similar to fossil and extant hominins, and is outside of the known range of fossil and living Pongo. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that the two molars are in fact Homo erectus teeth, and Dubois’ original a;ribution to “Pithecanthropus erectus” (a junior synonym of Homo erectus) is correct.
ISSN: 1545-0031
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Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Paleobiología

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