Hominin lower second premolar morphology: evolutionary inferences through geometric morphometric analysis

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Mandibular premolars are increasingly used in taxon-specific diagnostic analyses of hominins. Among the principal difficulties in these evaluations is the absence of discrete, discernible, and comparable anatomical structures for rigorous quantitative assessment. Previous research has addressed either internal crown surface features (such as cusps and fossae) or the morphology of the crown outline. In the present paper, we integrate both types of information in the examination of morphological variation of lower P4s (n = 96) among various fossil hominin species with an emphasis on genus Homo. We use a set of 34 2D landmarks combining coordinate data from four classical dental landmarks on the occlusal surface and 30 sliding semilandmarks of the crown outline. Our results indicate that external shape variation is closely related to the configuration of the occlusal morphological features and influenced by dental size. The external and internal shapes of P4 are polymorphic but still useful in depicting a primitive-derived gradient. The primitive pattern seems to have been an asymmetrical contour with a mesially displaced metaconid, development of a bulging talonid, and a broad occlusal polygon. The trend toward dental reduction during the Pleistocene produced different morphological variants with a reduced occlusal polygon and decreased lingual occlusal surface in later Homo species. Homo heidelbergensis/neanderthalensis have fixed plesiomorphic traits in high percentages, whereas in modern humans a symmetrical outline with a centered metaconid and talonid reduction evolved.
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