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      Macroscopic and microscopic analyses of linear enamel hypoplasia in Plio-Pleistocene South African hominins with respect to aspects of enamel development and morphology.

      American Journal of Physical Anthropology

      pathology, growth & development, Tooth Crown, Regression Analysis, methods, Odontometry, Incisor, Humans, Hominidae, Fossils, Dental Enamel Hypoplasia, Cuspid, Animals

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          This study uses macroscopic and microscopic methods to analyze the expression of linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) in Plio-Pleistocene South African hominins. LEH is a developmental defect of enamel that is used in many anthropological contexts as a physiological stress indicator. Previous research has not settled the question as to whether differences in LEH expression exist between Paranthropus and Australopithecus and if they exist, to what extent these differences might be explained simply by taxonomic differences in enamel development and morphology rather than by differential stress experience. In this study, the analysis of LEH is conducted with respect to differences between Paranthropus and Australopithecus in aspects of enamel development and morphology that are thought to influence LEH expression. Two factors impacting LEH expression are considered: the duration of enamel formation, and the spacing of perikymata. It is predicted that if the first factor strongly influences the expression of LEH, then there should be fewer defects per tooth in Paranthropus because of its abbreviated crown formation spans (and fast extension rates) relative to Australopithecus. It is also predicted that because Australopithecus has more densely packed perikymata in comparable regions of the crown than Paranthropus, this taxon should, on average, have narrower defects than Paranthropus. To address these questions, 200 Australopithecus and 137 Paranthropus teeth were examined for LEH, and the analysis of defect width with respect to perikymata spacing was conducted on tooth impressions examined under a scanning electron microscope using INCA (Oxford Instruments) measurement software. Data support the first prediction: Australopithecus does have significantly more defects per canine tooth than Paranthropus. Data do not support the second prediction in large part because several Australopithecus specimens have wide groove defects in which perikymata are not visible and enamel is irregular. Such wide grooves are not predicted by perikymata spacing such that alternative explanations, including taxonomic differences in ameloblast sensitivity and the duration/severity of disruptions to enamel growth, must be considered. Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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