Relationship between cusp size and occlusal wear pattern in Neanderthal and Homo sapiens first maxillary molars

Luca Fiorenza, Stefano Benazzi, Bence Viola, Ottmar Kullmer, Friedemann Schrenk

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20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Tooth wear studies in mammals have highlighted the relationship between wear facets (attritional areas produced during occlusion by the contact between opposing teeth) and physical properties of the ingested food. However, little is known about the influence of tooth morphology on the formation of occlusal wear facets. We analyzed the occlusal wear patterns of first maxillary molars (M(1) s) in Neanderthals, early Homo sapiens, and contemporary modern humans. We applied a virtual method to analyze wear facets on the crown surface of three-dimensional digital models. Absolute and relative wear facet areas are compared with cusp area and cusp height. Although the development of wear facets partially follows the cusp pattern, the results obtained from the between-group comparisons do not reflect the cusp size differences characterizing these groups. In particular, the wear facets developed along the slopes of the most discriminate cusp between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens (hypocone) do not display any significant difference. Moreover, no correlations have been found between cusp size and wear facet areas (with the exception of the modern sample) and between cusp height and wear facet areas. Our results suggest that cusp size is only weakly related to the formation of the occlusal wear facets. Other factors, such as, diet, food processing, environmental abrasiveness, and nondietary habits are probably more important for the development and enlargement of wear facets, corroborating the hypotheses suggested from previous dental wear studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453 - 461
Number of pages9
JournalAnatomical Record
Volume294
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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