Research Article

Paleobiological Implications of the Ardipithecus ramidus Dentition

Science  02 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5949, pp. 69-99
DOI: 10.1126/science.1175824

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Abstract

The Middle Awash Ardipithecus ramidus sample comprises over 145 teeth, including associated maxillary and mandibular sets. These help reveal the earliest stages of human evolution. Ar. ramidus lacks the postcanine megadontia of Australopithecus. Its molars have thinner enamel and are functionally less durable than those of Australopithecus but lack the derived Pan pattern of thin occlusal enamel associated with ripe-fruit frugivory. The Ar. ramidus dental morphology and wear pattern are consistent with a partially terrestrial, omnivorous/frugivorous niche. Analyses show that the ARA-VP-6/500 skeleton is female and that Ar. ramidus was nearly monomorphic in canine size and shape. The canine/lower third premolar complex indicates a reduction of canine size and honing capacity early in hominid evolution, possibly driven by selection targeted on the male upper canine.

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