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Dental Evidence for the Reconstruction of Diet in African Early Homo

Peter S. Ungar
Current Anthropology
Vol. 53, No. S6, Human Biology and the Origins of Homo (December 2012), pp. S318-S329
DOI: 10.1086/666700
Stable URL:
Page Count: 12
Subjects: Anthropology
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Dental Evidence for the Reconstruction of Diet in African Early Homo
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The reconstruction of diet is important for understanding the paleoecology and evolution of early hominins. This paper reviews and colligates the fossil evidence for diets of early Homo (Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus), particularly that related to tooth size, shape, structure, and wear. Technological innovations and new finds have led to improved understandings of feeding adaptations and food preferences in the earliest members of our genus. Differences in dental topography between these species and the australopiths, for example, have been documented, as have differences in microwear textures between H. habilis and H. erectus. These and other lines of evidence suggest a probable shift in diet in early Homo, and especially H. erectus, compared with their australopith forebears, with a broadened subsistence base to include foods with a wider range of fracture properties. Studies to date also make clear that while much remains to be done, early hominin teeth hold the potential to provide more detail about diet and confidence in our reconstructions as samples increase, our understanding of functional morphology improves, and other methods of analysis are applied to the fossils we have.

Notes and References

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