Publications by authors named "Alejandro Pérez-Pérez"

43 Publications

Anterior tooth-use behaviors among early modern humans and Neandertals.

PLoS One 2019 27;14(11):e0224573. Epub 2019 Nov 27.

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Early modern humans (EMH) are often touted as behaviorally advanced to Neandertals, with more sophisticated technologies, expanded resource exploitation, and more complex clothing production. However, recent analyses have indicated that Neandertals were more nuanced in their behavioral adaptations, with the production of the Châtelperronian technocomplex, the processing and cooking of plant foods, and differences in behavioral adaptations according to habitat. This study adds to this debate by addressing the behavioral strategies of EMH (n = 30) within the context of non-dietary anterior tooth-use behaviors to glean possible differences between them and their Neandertal (n = 45) counterparts. High-resolution casts of permanent anterior teeth were used to collect microwear textures of fossil and comparative bioarchaeological samples using a Sensofar white-light confocal profiler with a 100x objective lens. Labial surfaces were scanned, totaling a work envelope of 204 x 276 μm for each individual. The microwear textures were examined for post-mortem damage and uploaded to SSFA software packages for surface characterization. Statistical analyses were performed to examine differences in central tendencies and distributions of anisotropy and textural fill volume variables among the EMH sample itself by habitat, location, and time interval, and between the EMH and Neandertal samples by habitat and location. Descriptive statistics for the EMH sample were compared to seven bioarchaeological samples (n = 156) that utilized different tooth-use behaviors to better elucidate specific activities that may have been performed by EMH. Results show no significant differences between the means within the EMH sample by habitat, location, or time interval. Furthermore, there are no significant differences found here between EMH and Neandertals. Comparisons to the bioarchaeological samples suggest both fossil groups participated in clamping and grasping activities. These results indicate that EMH and Neandertals were similar in their non-dietary anterior tooth-use behaviors and provide additional evidence for overlapping behavioral strategies employed by these two hominins.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0224573PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6880970PMC
April 2020

Age-related tooth wear in African rainforest hunter-gatherers.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2019 12 10;170(4):622-628. Epub 2019 Oct 10.

Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciencies Ambientals, Secció Zoologia i Antropologia Biològica, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Objectives: Central African small-scale foragers subsist primarily on hunting game activities and wild plant-food gathering. Starch-rich tubers are underground storage organs (USOs) and staple food resources in savanna and tropical rainforests. However, little is known about the effect of USO consumption on tooth wear development in living hunter-gatherers. We report age- and sex-dependent tooth wear rates in forest-dwelling Baka Pygmies with well-documented wild-yam-tuber-based diet to explore the long-term impact of USO mechanical hardness and abrasiveness on the wearing down of the teeth.

Materials And Methods: Percentages of dentine exposure (PDEs) of permanent left mandibular first molars (M ) were recorded using in vivo high-resolution replicas of Baka individuals (aged 8-33 years), inhabiting Le Bosquet district in Cameroon (Western Africa). Regression and covariance analyses were used to test the effect of individual aging by sex on PDE rates.

Results: We found a strong increase of PDE by age among Baka individuals. No evidence of sexual dimorphism in wear patterns suggests similar sex-related dietary and masticatory demands during growth. Overall, greatest dentine exposure values ≈4% denote unexpected slow wear down rates for foraging diets relying on USO consumption.

Discussion: The low molar wear rates with age found in Baka Pygmies contrast with extensive wear rates in savanna-dwelling foragers, reflecting differences in thermal processing techniques affecting fracture toughness and grittiness of mechanically challenging foods. Our findings reveal that culture-specific dietary proclivities influence tooth wear among foraging behaviors with important implications in hominin dietary versatility and abrasive stress on chewing surfaces.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23934DOI Listing
December 2019

Buccal dental microwear as an indicator of dietary habits and dietary adaptation of the Byzantine people of Jordan.

Anthropol Anz 2019 Oct;76(4):352-362

Section of Zoology and Biological Anthropology, Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona.

This study examined buccal microwear from the Byzantine sites of Yajuz and Sa'ad in Jordan (n = 15) to assess different subsistence economies. An Indian Hindu sample (n = 7) was used for comparative purposes. The results show no differences in the pattern of buccal dental microwear between the two Byzantine sites, while a difference was noted when these sites were compared to Hindus. It is probable that cultural variation was the cause of buccal microwear differences between the temporally located sites. Although the economies during the Byzantine period were diversified, technological adaptation spread into region during the Byzantine period , which eased food accession and processing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1127/anthranz/2019/0971DOI Listing
October 2019

Morphological variation and covariation in mandibular molars of platyrrhine primates.

J Morphol 2019 01;280(1):20-34

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Molars are highly integrated biological structures that have been used for inferring evolutionary relationships among taxa. However, parallel and convergent morphological traits can be affected by developmental and functional constraints. Here, we analyze molar shapes of platyrrhines in order to explore if platyrrhine molar diversity reflects homogeneous patterns of molar variation and covariation. We digitized 30 landmarks on mandibular first and second molars of 418 extant and 11 fossil platyrrhine specimens to determine the degree of integration of both molars when treated as a single module. We combined morphological and phylogenetic data to investigate the phylogenetic signal and to visualize the history of molar shape changes. All platyrrhine taxa show a common shape pattern suggesting that a relatively low degree of phenotypic variation is caused by convergent evolution, although molar shape carries significant phylogenetic signal. Atelidae and Pitheciidae show high levels of integration with low variation between the two molars, whereas the Cebinae/Saimiriinae, and especially Callitrichinae, show greater variation between molars and trend toward a modular organization. We hypothesize that biomechanical constraints of the masticatory apparatus, and the dietary profile of each taxon are the main factors that determine high covariation in molars. In contrast, low molar shape covariation may result from the fact that each molar exhibits a distinct ecological signal, as molars can be exposed to distinct occlusal loadings during food processing, suggesting that different selective pressures on molars can reduce overall molar integration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jmor.20907DOI Listing
January 2019

Dental size variability in Central African Pygmy hunter-gatherers and Bantu-speaking farmers.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2018 07 22;166(3):671-681. Epub 2018 Mar 22.

Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciencies Ambientals, Secció Zoologia i Antropologia Biològica, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, 08028, Spain.

Objectives: Odontometric studies of African populations show high within-group variation in tooth size. Overall, North Africans exhibit smaller dimensions than groups from eastern and southern sub-Saharan regions, but no previous studies have analyzed the full dental metrics among extant African Pygmy hunter-gatherers and Bantu-speaking farmers. Furthermore, the population variability in tooth crown sizes from equatorial rainforest regions remains to be elucidated.

Materials And Methods: The mesiodistal and buccolingual diameters of the permanent teeth (I1-M2) were measured in vivo using high-resolution replicas from Baka Pygmies and Mvae and Yassa Bantu-speakers from Cameroon (western Africa). Analyses of variance were used to record sex-related and population-level differences in tooth sizes, and a principal component analysis of geometrically scaled measures was used to plot the odontometric variability among groups.

Results: Cameroonian Baka Pygmies differ in dental size from their Bantu-speaking neighbors. Molar teeth are larger in Pygmies than in Bantu individuals, while the anterior dentition is larger in the Bantu. Baka males exhibit significantly larger teeth than females, whereas sexual dimorphism in non-Pygmies is only present in the anterior dentition.

Discussion: Odontometric patterns and the degree of sexual dimorphism in dental size differ among Central African groups, indicating adaptation to their different forager and farmer lifestyles. In particular, the admixture of Bantu-speakers in Baka populations is smaller than that in other western Pygmy groups. The greater dental phenetic diversity in Baka compared to that of the smaller-toothed farmers suggests that ecogenetic and microevolutionary factors are influencing a particular divergence scenario.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23458DOI Listing
July 2018

Quantification of Myosin Heavy Chain Isoform mRNA Transcripts in the Supraspinatus Muscle of Vertical Clinger Primates.

Folia Primatol (Basel) 2017 12;88(6):497-506. Epub 2018 Jan 12.

Unit of Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Vertical clinging is a specialized form of locomotion characteristic of the primate family Callitrichidae. Vertical clinging requires these pronograde primates to maintain a vertical posture, so the protraction of their forelimbs must resist gravity. Since pronograde primates usually move as horizontal quadrupeds, we hypothesized that the supraspinatus muscle of vertical clingers would present specific characteristics related to the functional requirements imposed on the shoulder area by vertical clinging. To test this hypothesis, we quantified by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction the mRNA transcripts of myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoforms in the supraspinatus muscle of 15 species of pronograde primates, including vertical clingers. Our results indicate that the supraspinatus of vertical clingers has a specific expression pattern of the MHC isoforms, with a low expression of the transcripts of the slow MHC-I isoform and a high expression of the transcripts of the fast MHC-II isoforms. We conclude that these differences can be related to the particular functional characteristics of the shoulder in vertical clingers, but also to other anatomical adaptations of these primates, such as their small body size.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000485246DOI Listing
July 2018

Buccal dental-microwear and dietary ecology in a free-ranging population of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx) from southern Gabon.

PLoS One 2017 26;12(10):e0186870. Epub 2017 Oct 26.

Institut des Sciences de l'Évolution de Montpellier (ISE-M) UMR5554, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, Montpellier, France.

Analyses of dental micro- and macro-wear offer valuable information about dietary adaptations. The buccal surface of the teeth does not undergo attrition, indicating that dental microwear may directly inform about food properties. Only a few studies have, however, investigated the environmental and individual factors involved in the formation of such microwear in wild animals. Here, we examine variation of buccal microwear patterns of mandibular molars in a large free-ranging population of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). We first explore the influence of seasonality and individual's sex, age and tooth macrowear-expressed as the percent of dentine exposure (PDE)-on six microwear variables. Second, we analyze the interplay between individual's diet and PDE. In a last analysis, we revisit our results on mandrills in the light of other primate's microwear studies. We show that the average buccal scratch length and the frequency of vertical buccal scratches are both higher during the long dry season compared to the long rainy season, while we observe the inverse relationship for disto-mesial scratches. In addition, females present more disto-mesial scratches than males and older individuals present higher scratch density, a greater proportion of horizontal scratches but a lower proportion of vertical scratches than young animals. PDE yields similar results than individual's age confirming earlier results in this population on the relationship between age and tooth macrowear. Because seasonality and individual characteristics are both known to impact mandrills' diet in the study population, our results suggest that buccal microwear patterns may inform about individual feeding strategies. Furthermore, PDE increases with the consumption of potentially abrasive monocotyledonous plants, independently of the individuals' age, although it is not affected by food mechanical properties. Finally, buccal scratch densities by orientation appear as relevant proxies for discriminating between different primate taxa.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0186870PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5658090PMC
December 2017

Expression of myosin heavy chain isoforms mRNA transcripts in the temporalis muscle of common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).

Ann Anat 2017 Nov 1;214:80-85. Epub 2017 Sep 1.

Unit of Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Barcelona, C/Casanova 143, 08036 Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Purpose: The common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is the primate that is phylogenetically most closely related to humans (Homo sapiens). In order to shed light on the anatomy and function of the temporalis muscle in the chimpanzee, we have analyzed the expression patterns of the mRNA transcripts of the myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms in different parts of the muscle.

Basic Procedures: We dissected the superficial, deep and sphenomandibularis portions of the temporalis muscle in five adult P. troglodytes and quantified the expression of the mRNA transcripts of the MyHC isoforms in each portion using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction.

Main Findings: We observed significant differences in the patterns of expression of the mRNA transcripts of the MyHC-IIM isoform between the sphenomandibularis portion and the anterior superficial temporalis (33.6% vs 47.0%; P=0.032) and between the sphenomandibularis portion and the anterior deep temporalis (33.6% vs 43.0; P=0.016). We also observed non-significant differences between the patterns of expression in the anterior and posterior superficial temporalis.

Principal Conclusions: The differential expression patterns of the mRNA transcripts of the MyHC isoforms in the temporalis muscle in P. troglodytes may be related to the functional differences that have been observed in electromyographic studies in other species of primates. Our findings can be applicable to the fields of comparative anatomy, evolutionary anatomy, and anthropology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aanat.2017.08.001DOI Listing
November 2017

Inertial flywheel resistance training and muscle oxygen saturation.

J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2018 Nov 24;58(11):1618-1624. Epub 2017 Jul 24.

Department of Physical Education, School of Education, University of Cádiz, Puerto Real, Spain.

Background: The inertial flywheel device causes an increase in eccentric overload during training. The aim was to study muscle oxygen saturation produced during an inertial flywheel squat training, comparing it with a barbell squat training.

Methods: Twelve male adults performed a barbell squat training (3×8 reps, 75-80% 1RM) and a flywheel squat training (3×8 reps, all-out). Muscle oxygen saturation (%SmO2), total hemoglobin (tHb), reoxygenation, heart rate (HR), lactate, vertical jumps, maximal voluntary isometric contraction and rated perceived exertion (RPE) were studied.

Results: Both protocols produced a significant decrease in %SmO2 and tHB during the sets of squats, and a significant increase in HR, lactates dand RPE after training. The flywheel squat protocol caused a greater decrease in %SmO2 than the barbell squat protocol in each of the sets of exercises (1st set: -67.5±7.2% vs. -53.7±16.2%; 2nd set: -67.2±13.5% vs. -53.6±15.4%; 3rd set: -68.1±13.0% vs. -55.0±17.0%), as well as a longer reoxygenation after finishing the training (61.7±12.6 vs. 55.7±13.7 s).

Conclusions: Although no differences were found on a muscle fatigue level, the flywheel training brought on greater physiological stress than the barbell squat training, observing a greater decrease in muscle oxygen saturation and a longer reoxygenation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.23736/S0022-4707.17.07793-3DOI Listing
November 2018

Expression of MyHC isoforms mRNA transcripts in different regions of the masseter and medial pterygoid muscles in chimpanzees.

Arch Oral Biol 2017 Nov 9;83:63-67. Epub 2017 Jul 9.

Unit of Human Anatomy and Embryology, University of Barcelona, C/Casanova 143, 08036 Barcelona, Spain.

Objective: The aim of this study is to examine the expression pattern of the different myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms in the masseter and medial pterygoid muscles by real time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) to obtain information at molecular level which can be related to the functional characteristics of these two muscles.

Design: The masseter, deep and superficial portion, and medial pterygoid muscles of five adult Pan troglodytes were dissected in order to obtain samples of the anterior and posterior regions of each portion of the masseter and of the medial pterygoid. The expression of MyHC isoforms mRNA transcripts was analyzed by RT-qPCR.

Results: No significant differences in expression of MyHC isoforms between the masseter and the medial pterygoid were found. In contrast, when comparing the superficial and the deep portion of the masseter, we found that the MyHC-IIM isoform was expressed at a significantly higher level in the superficial portion.

Conclusions: The superficial portion of the masseter and the medial pterygoid muscle have the same expression pattern regarding the different MyHC isoforms. On the other hand, the deep portion of the masseter, which is activated mainly during lateral and repositioning movements of the mandible, has a lower MyHC-IIM isoform expression than the superficial portion. Our findings provide new data on functional aspects of the masseter and medial pterygoid that can complement results obtained by other techniques.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2017.07.003DOI Listing
November 2017

Buccal dental microwear texture and catarrhine diets.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2017 07 28;163(3):462-473. Epub 2017 Mar 28.

Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Secció de Zoologia i Antropologia Biològica, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal, 643, Barcelona, 08028, Spain.

Objectives: Two-dimensional dental microwear analyses on occlusal and nonocclusal enamel surfaces have been widely applied to reconstruct the feeding behaviors of extant primates and to infer ecological adaptations in fossil hominins. To date, analyses of dental microwear texture, using three-dimensional, Scale-Sensitive Fractal Analysis approaches has only been applied to occlusal surfaces. Here, for the first time, we apply this 3D proxy to buccal enamel surfaces of catarrhine primates of known feeding ecologies to assess the utility of nonocclusal microwear texture variables as indicators of dietary habits.

Materials And Methods: Buccal microwear texture attributes were collected from high-resolution second molar casts in a sample of seven extant African catarrhine taxa with differing dietary behaviors. A white-light confocal microscope with a 100× objective lens was used to record six microwear texture variables that assess complexity, anisotropy, heterogeneity, and textural fill volume.

Results: The physical properties and variation in hardness of ingested foods is reflected by significant differences in the microwear variables on buccal enamel surfaces between species, which is in agreement with early reports using 2D microwear signatures of the same samples. Species that consume hard brittle items showed high buccal enamel complexity and low anisotropy values, while folivorous species that consume tough foods revealed high anisotropy and low complexity enamel patterns.

Discussion: Buccal microwear texture analysis on enamel surfaces clearly reflects diet-related variation in nonhuman primates. Our findings indicate that microwear texture attributes on nonworking enamel surfaces provide an alternative procedure for reconstructing dietary behavior when wear facets on occlusal surfaces are lacking.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.23219DOI Listing
July 2017

Anterior dental microwear textures show habitat-driven variability in Neandertal behavior.

J Hum Evol 2017 04;105:13-23

Department of Anthropology, Washington University, Saint Louis, MO 63130, USA. Electronic address:

The causes of Neandertal anterior tooth wear patterns, including labial rounding, labial scratches, and differential anterior-posterior wear, have been debated for decades. The most common explanation is the "stuff-and-cut" hypothesis, which describes Neandertals clamping down on a piece of meat and slicing a portion close to their lips. "Stuff-and-cut" has been accepted as a general aspect of Neandertal behavior without fully assessing its variability. This study analyzes anterior dental microwear textures across habitats, locations, and time intervals to discern possible variation in Neandertal anterior tooth-use behavior. Forty-five Neandertals from 24 sites were analyzed, represented by high-resolution replicas of permanent anterior teeth. The labial surface was scanned for antemortem microwear using a white-light confocal profiler. The resultant 3D-point clouds, representing 204 × 276 μm for each specimen, were uploaded into SSFA software packages for texture characterization. Statistical analyses, including MANOVAs, ANOVAs, and pairwise comparisons, were completed on ranked microwear data. Neandertal descriptive statistics were also compared to 10 bioarchaeological samples of known or inferred dietary and behavioral regimes. The Neandertal sample varied significantly by habitat, suggesting this factor was a principal driving force for differences in Neandertal anterior tooth-use behaviors. The Neandertals from open habitats showed significantly lower anisotropy and higher textural fill volume than those inhabiting more closed, forested environments. The texture signature from the open-habitat Neandertals was most similar to that of the Ipiutak and Nunavut, who used their anterior teeth for intense clamping and grasping behaviors related to hide preparation. Those in more closed habitats were most similar to the Arikara, who did not participate in non-dietary behaviors. These Neandertal individuals had a broad range of texture values consistent with non-dietary and dietary behaviors, suggesting they varied more in anterior tooth-use behaviors and exploited a wider variety of plant and animal resources than did those from open habitats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.01.004DOI Listing
April 2017

The diet of the first Europeans from Atapuerca.

Sci Rep 2017 02 27;7:43319. Epub 2017 Feb 27.

Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid-Instituto de Salud Carlos III, 28029 Madrid, Spain.

Hominin dietary specialization is crucial to understanding the evolutionary changes of craniofacial biomechanics and the interaction of food processing methods' effects on teeth. However, the diet-related dental wear processes of the earliest European hominins remain unknown because most of the academic attention has focused on Neandertals. Non-occlusal dental microwear provides direct evidence of the effect of chewed food particles on tooth enamel surfaces and reflects dietary signals over time. Here, we report for the first time the direct effect of dietary abrasiveness as evidenced by the buccal microwear patterns on the teeth of the Sima del Elefante-TE9 and Gran Dolina-TD6 Atapuerca hominins (1.2-0.8 million years ago - Myr) as compared with other Lower and Middle Pleistocene populations. A unique buccal microwear pattern that is found in Homo antecessor (0.96-0.8 Myr), a well-known cannibal species, indicates dietary practices that are consistent with the consumption of hard and brittle foods. Our findings confirm that the oldest European inhabitants ingested more mechanically-demanding diets than later populations because they were confronted with harsh, fluctuating environmental conditions. Furthermore, the influence of grit-laden food suggests that a high-quality meat diet from butchering processes could have fueled evolutionary changes in brain size.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep43319DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5327419PMC
February 2017

Burning mouth syndrome and associated factors: A case-control retrospective study.

Med Clin (Barc) 2017 Feb 18;148(4):153-157. Epub 2016 Nov 18.

Departamento de Odontoestomatología, Campus Universitario de Bellvitge , L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, España.

Background And Objective: Burning mouth syndrome (BMS) can be defined as burning pain or dysesthesia on the tongue and/or other sites of the oral mucosa without a causative identifiable lesion. The discomfort is usually of daily recurrence, with a higher incidence among people aged 50 to 60 years, affecting mostly the female sex and diminishing their quality of life. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between several pathogenic factors and burning mouth syndrome.

Patients And Methods: 736 medical records of patients diagnosed of burning mouth syndrome and 132 medical records for the control group were studied retrospectively. The study time span was from January 1990 to December 2014. The protocol included: sex, age, type of oral discomfort and location, among other factors.

Results: Analysis of the association between pathogenic factors and BMS diagnosis revealed that only 3 factors showed a statistically significant association: triggers (P=.003), parafunctional habits (P=.006), and oral hygiene (P=.012). There were neither statistically significant differences in BMS incidence between sex groups (P=.408) nor association of BMS with the pathogenic factors of substance abuse (P=.915), systemic pathology (P=.685), and dietary habits (P=.904).

Conclusions: Parafunctional habits like bruxism and abnormal movements of tongue and lips can explain the BMS main symptomatology. Psychological aspects and systemic factors should be always considered. As a multifactorial disorder, the treatment of BMS should be executed in a holistic way.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.medcli.2016.09.046DOI Listing
February 2017

Testing Dietary Hypotheses of East African Hominines Using Buccal Dental Microwear Data.

PLoS One 2016 16;11(11):e0165447. Epub 2016 Nov 16.

Secció de Zoologia i Antropologia, Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

There is much debate on the dietary adaptations of the robust hominin lineages during the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition. It has been argued that the shift from C3 to C4 ecosystems in Africa was the main factor responsible for the robust dental and facial anatomical adaptations of Paranthropus taxa, which might be indicative of the consumption of fibrous, abrasive plant foods in open environments. However, occlusal dental microwear data fail to provide evidence of such dietary adaptations and are not consistent with isotopic evidence that supports greater C4 food intake for the robust clades than for the gracile australopithecines. We provide evidence from buccal dental microwear data that supports softer dietary habits than expected for P. aethiopicus and P. boisei based both on masticatory apomorphies and isotopic analyses. On one hand, striation densities on the buccal enamel surfaces of paranthropines teeth are low, resembling those of H. habilis and clearly differing from those observed on H. ergaster, which display higher scratch densities indicative of the consumption of a wide assortment of highly abrasive foodstuffs. Buccal dental microwear patterns are consistent with those previously described for occlusal enamel surfaces, suggesting that Paranthropus consumed much softer diets than previously presumed and thus calling into question a strict interpretation of isotopic evidence. On the other hand, the significantly high buccal scratch densities observed in the H. ergaster specimens are not consistent with a highly specialized, mostly carnivorous diet; instead, they support the consumption of a wide range of highly abrasive food items.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0165447PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5112956PMC
June 2017

OH-65: The earliest evidence for right-handedness in the fossil record.

J Hum Evol 2016 11;100:65-72

Polo Museale del Lazio, Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico "L. Pigorini", Sezione di Bioarcheologia, P. le G. Marconi, 14, 00144, Rome, Italy.

Labial striations on the anterior teeth have been documented in numerous European pre-Neandertal and Neandertal fossils and serve as evidence for handedness. OH-65, dated at 1.8 mya, shows a concentration of oblique striations on, especially, the left I and right I, I and C, which signal that it was right-handed. From these patterns we contend that OH-65 was habitually using the right hand, over the left, in manipulating objects during some kind of oral processing. In living humans right-handedness is generally correlated with brain lateralization, although the strength of the association is questioned by some. We propose that as more specimens are found, right-handedness, as seen in living Homo, will most probably be typical of these early hominins.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.07.002DOI Listing
November 2016

Molar shape variability in platyrrhine primates.

J Hum Evol 2016 10 25;99:79-92. Epub 2016 Aug 25.

Secció de Zoologia i Antropologia Biològica, Departament de Biologia Evolutiva, Ecologia i Ciències Ambientals, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Recent phylogenetic analyses suggest that platyrrhines constitute a monophyletic group represented by three families: Cebidae, Atelidae, and Pitheciidae. Morphological variability between and within these three families, however, is widely discussed and debated. The aim of this study was to assess molar shape variability in platyrrhines, to explore patterns of interspecific variation among extant species, and to evaluate how molar shape can be used as a taxonomic indicator. The analyses were conducted using standard multivariate analyses of geometric morphometric data from 802 platyrrhine lower molars. The results indicated that the interspecific variation exhibited a highly homoplastic pattern related to functional adaptation of some taxa. However, phylogeny was also an important factor in shaping molar morphological traits, given that some phenotypic similarities were consistent with current phylogenetic positions. Our results show that the phylogenetic and functional signals of lower molar shape vary depending on the taxa and the tooth considered. Based on molar shape, Aotus showed closer similarities to Callicebus, as well as to some Cebidae and Ateles-Lagothrix, due to convergent evolutionary trends caused by similar dietary habits, or due to fast-evolving branches in the Aotus lineage, somewhat similar to the shape of Callicebus and Cebidae.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.07.006DOI Listing
October 2016

Morphometric variation of extant platyrrhine molars: taxonomic implications for fossil platyrrhines.

PeerJ 2016 11;4:e1967. Epub 2016 May 11.

Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Zoology and Physical Anthropology Section, Universitat de Barcelona , Barcelona , Spain.

The phylogenetic position of many fossil platyrrhines with respect to extant ones is not yet clear. Two main hypotheses have been proposed: the layered or successive radiations hypothesis suggests that Patagonian fossils are Middle Miocene stem platyrrhines lacking modern descendants, whereas the long lineage hypothesis argues for an evolutionary continuity of all fossil platyrrhines with the extant ones. Our geometric morphometric analysis of a 15 landmark-based configuration of platyrrhines' first and second lower molars suggest that morphological stasis may explain the reduced molar shape variation observed. Platyrrhine lower molar shape might be a primitive retention of the ancestral state affected by strong ecological constraints throughout the radiation of the main platyrrhine families. The Patagonian fossil specimens showed two distinct morphological patterns of lower molars, Callicebus-like and Saguinus-like, which might be the precursors of the extant forms, whereas the Middle Miocene specimens, though showing morphological resemblances with the Patagonian fossils, also displayed new, derived molar patterns, Alouatta-like and Pitheciinae-like, thereby suggesting that despite the overall morphological stasis of molars, phenotypic diversification of molar shape was already settled during the Middle Miocene.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1967DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4867715PMC
May 2016

Phylogenetic signal in molar dental shape of extant and fossil catarrhine primates.

J Hum Evol 2016 05 11;94:13-27. Epub 2016 Mar 11.

Secc. Antropologia, Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain; Grup d'Estudi de l'Evolució dels Homínids i altres Primats, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Morphology has been widely used for inferring the phylogenies of numerous taxonomic groups. Recent molecular studies performed on extant non-human primates, however, have cast doubt on the reliability of cranial and postcranial characters for characterizing evolutionary affinities. Because molecular evidence is often not available for fossil specimens, detecting phylogenetic signals in anatomical features is of great relevance. Here we have analyzed molar (M1 and M2) crown shape by means of geometric morphometrics in a large sample of both extant and fossil Miocene catarrhine primates to detect the phylogenetic signal in molar morphometry. Results support that molar shape carries a strong phylogenetic signal, mostly at the superfamily level but also to some extent at the family level. Dietary factors, however, appear to have less influence, especially for M2. The Miocene Pliopithecoidea, Cercopithecoidea, and Hominoidea superfamilies clearly grouped according to the expected taxonomic affinities with the extant groups, although some discrepancies were found depending on the tooth considered. Our findings suggest that although molar crown shape can be used as a reliable proxy for establishing taxonomic affinities of catarrhine fossil primates with extant groups, a significant amount of interspecific variation exists, indicative of derived adaptations at the genus or species level.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.01.005DOI Listing
May 2016

Dental-macrowear and diet of Tigara foragers from Point Hope, northern Alaska.

Anthropol Anz 2016;73(3):257-64. Epub 2016 Apr 5.

Secc. Zoologia i Antropologia Biològica, Dept. Biologia Evolutiva, Ecología i Ciències Ambientals. Fac. de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona. Av. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

Summary: Ethnographic studies indicate that Eskimo foragers are characterized by well-defined sexual division of labor and extensive use of anterior teeth as a tool, resulting in higher degrees of wear. However, little is known about the intra-population variation in molar-macrowear rates and dietary implications. Here, percentages of dentin exposure (PDE) were recorded on first mandibular molars among Tigara foragers from Point Hope (Alaska) and attempt to correlate age and sex variation in wear patterns. We found that no overall sex-related differences in PDE exist and suggest that molars did not take a part in para-masticatory or cultural practices. Strong correlation with increasing age was found as expected but males wore their teeth at higher rates than females related to masticatory demands during growth. Our findings suggest that individual variation in molar-macrowear must be attributed to biomechanics of chewing and cultural behavior rather than sexual variation in food acquisition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1127/anthranz/2016/0613DOI Listing
February 2017

First molar size and wear within and among modern hunter-gatherers and agricultural populations.

Homo 2015 Aug 5;66(4):299-315. Epub 2015 May 5.

Secció Antropologia, Departament de Biologia Animal, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, 08028, Spain. Electronic address:

Apart from reflecting modern human dental variation, differences in dental size among populations provide a means for studying continuous evolutionary processes and their mechanisms. Dental wear, on the other hand, has been widely used to infer dietary adaptations and variability among or within diverse ancient human populations. Few such studies have focused on modern foragers and farmers, however, and diverse methods have been used. This research aimed to apply a single, standardized, and systematic quantitative procedure to measure dental size and dentin exposure in order to analyze differences among several hunter-gatherer and agricultural populations from various environments and geographic origins. In particular, we focused on sexual dimorphism and intergroup differences in the upper and lower first molars. Results indicated no sexual dimorphism in molar size and wear within the studied populations. Despite the great ethnographic variation in subsistence strategies among these populations, our findings suggest that differences in sexual division of labor do not affect dietary wear patterns.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jchb.2015.02.007DOI Listing
August 2015

Dental shape variability in cercopithecoid primates: a model for the taxonomic attribution of macaques from Roman archaeological contexts.

Folia Primatol (Basel) 2014 19;85(6):361-78. Epub 2015 Feb 19.

Secció d'Antropologia, Departament Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Morphometric variation of biological structures has been widely used to determine taxonomic affinities among taxa, and teeth are especially informative for both deep phylogenetic relationships and specific ecological signals. We report 2-dimensional geometric morphometrics (GM) analyses of occlusal crown surfaces of lower molars (M1, n = 141; M2, n = 158) of cercopithecoid primate species. A 12-landmark configuration, including cusp tips and 8 points of the molar crown contour, were used to evaluate patterns of variation in lower molar shape among cercopithecoid primates and to predict the taxonomic attribution of 2 archaeological macaques from Roman time periods. The results showed that the lower molar shape of cercopithecoid primates reflects taxonomic affinities, mostly at a subfamily level and close to a tribe level. Thus, the cusp positions and crown contour were important elements of the pattern related to interspecific variation. Additionally, the archaeological specimens, attributed to Macaca sylvanus based on osteological information, were classified using the GM molar shape variability of the cercopithecoid primates studied. The results suggest that their molar shape resembled both M. sylvanus and M. nemestrina, and species attribution varied depending on the comparative sample used.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000371633DOI Listing
October 2015

Like father, like son: assessment of the morphological affinities of A.L. 288-1 (A. afarensis), Sts 7 (A. africanus) and Omo 119-73-2718 (Australopithecus sp.) through a three-dimensional shape analysis of the shoulder joint.

PLoS One 2015 4;10(2):e0117408. Epub 2015 Feb 4.

Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

The postcranial evidence for the Australopithecus genus indicates that australopiths were able bipeds; however, the morphology of the forelimbs and particularly that of the shoulder girdle suggests that they were partially adapted to an arboreal lifestyle. The nature of such arboreal adaptations is still unclear, as are the kind of arboreal behaviors in which australopiths might have engaged. In this study we analyzed the shape of the shoulder joint (proximal humerus and glenoid cavity of the scapula) of three australopith specimens: A.L. 288-1 (A. afarensis), Sts 7 (A. africanus) and Omo 119-73-2718 (Australopithecus sp.) with three-dimensional geometric morphometrics. The morphology of the specimens was compared with that of a wide array of living anthropoid taxa and some additional fossil hominins (the Homo erectus specimen KNM-WT 15000 and the H. neanderthalensis specimen Tabun 1). Our results indicate that A.L. 288-1 shows mosaic traits resembling H. sapiens and Pongo, whereas the Sts 7 shoulder is most similar to the arboreal apes and does not present affinities with H. sapiens. Omo 119-73-2718 exhibits morphological affinities with the more arboreal and partially suspensory New World monkey Lagothrix. The shoulder of the australopith specimens thus shows a combination of primitive and derived traits (humeral globularity, enhancement of internal and external rotation of the joint), related to use of the arm in overhead positions. The genus Homo specimens show overall affinities with H. sapiens at the shoulder, indicating full correspondence of these hominin shoulders with the modern human morphotype.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0117408PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4317181PMC
October 2015

Morphological affinities of the proximal humerus of Epipliopithecus vindobonensis and Pliopithecus antiquus: suspensory inferences based on a 3D geometric morphometrics approach.

J Hum Evol 2015 Mar 16;80:83-95. Epub 2014 Sep 16.

Unitat d'Antropologia (Departament de Biologia Animal), Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, 08028 Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Suspension plays a major adaptive role in shaping primate postcranial morphology, which therefore enables this positional behavior to be inferred in extinct taxa. The proximal humerus stands as a key region for inferring forelimb suspensory capabilities because its morphology can be effectively linked, from a functional viewpoint, to differences in suspension use between primate taxa. Here we provide an assessment of the suspensory capabilities of two pliopithecoids (Epipliopithecus vindobonensis and Pliopithecus antiquus) by means of a 3D geometric morphometric analysis of proximal humeral shape. The comparative sample includes proximal humeri from eight extant anthropoid genera, as well as other extinct catarrhines (the propliopithecoid Aegyptopithecus zeuxis, the stem hominoid Nyanzapithecus vancouveringorum, and an unascribed small catarrhine, GSP 28062, from the Middle Miocene of Pakistan). Body mass estimates based on allometric regressions of humeral head superoinferior diameter are also provided. Our results support some degree of forelimb suspensory behaviors for Epipliopithecus and GSP 28062. In contrast, and unlike previous qualitative assessments, our analysis shows that P. antiquus has a distinct glenohumeral morphology, much closer to that displayed by generalized arboreal quadrupeds with no evidence of suspensory adaptations (as in Aegyptopithecus and stem hominoids from Africa).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.08.012DOI Listing
March 2015

Shape analysis of the proximal humerus in orthograde and semi-orthograde primates: correlates of suspensory behavior.

Am J Primatol 2015 Jan 12;77(1):1-19. Epub 2014 Sep 12.

Anthropology Unit, Animal Biology Department, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

"Suspensory locomotion" is an expression that encompasses a series of specialized forms of locomotion that mainly orthograde primates use to achieve below-branch traveling. It implies a number of features in the entire body associated with the use of the forelimb in overhead positions. The glenohumeral joint is one of the main joints involved in effective suspensory locomotion, being subject to a delicate balance between the high degree of mobility and stabilization needed to successfully engage in suspensory behaviors. Here, we present a 3D geometric morphometric study that explores the form of the proximal humerus of six orthograde and semi-orthograde genera (Hylobates, Pongo, Pan, Gorilla, Ateles, and Lagothrix) and a pronograde genus, Colobus, to determine to what extent suspensory locomotor requirements are driving the shape of this epiphysis. Results show the presence of a morphocline related to degree of suspension in the shape of the articular surface, with highly suspensory taxa (i.e., Hylobates) exhibiting particular morphological traits at the articular surface that provide a greater range of circumduction. The placement and orientation of the rotator cuff muscles' insertion sites on the tubercles appear associated with the divergent forces operating at the joint in quadrupedal or above-head use of the hand.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajp.22306DOI Listing
January 2015

Ancient DNA analysis of 8000 B.C. near eastern farmers supports an early neolithic pioneer maritime colonization of Mainland Europe through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands.

PLoS Genet 2014 Jun 5;10(6):e1004401. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

Dpto. Biología Animal-Unidad de Antropología, Facultad de Biología, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

The genetic impact associated to the Neolithic spread in Europe has been widely debated over the last 20 years. Within this context, ancient DNA studies have provided a more reliable picture by directly analyzing the protagonist populations at different regions in Europe. However, the lack of available data from the original Near Eastern farmers has limited the achieved conclusions, preventing the formulation of continental models of Neolithic expansion. Here we address this issue by presenting mitochondrial DNA data of the original Near-Eastern Neolithic communities with the aim of providing the adequate background for the interpretation of Neolithic genetic data from European samples. Sixty-three skeletons from the Pre Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) sites of Tell Halula, Tell Ramad and Dja'de El Mughara dating between 8,700-6,600 cal. B.C. were analyzed, and 15 validated mitochondrial DNA profiles were recovered. In order to estimate the demographic contribution of the first farmers to both Central European and Western Mediterranean Neolithic cultures, haplotype and haplogroup diversities in the PPNB sample were compared using phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to available ancient DNA data from human remains belonging to the Linearbandkeramik-Alföldi Vonaldiszes Kerámia and Cardial/Epicardial cultures. We also searched for possible signatures of the original Neolithic expansion over the modern Near Eastern and South European genetic pools, and tried to infer possible routes of expansion by comparing the obtained results to a database of 60 modern populations from both regions. Comparisons performed among the 3 ancient datasets allowed us to identify K and N-derived mitochondrial DNA haplogroups as potential markers of the Neolithic expansion, whose genetic signature would have reached both the Iberian coasts and the Central European plain. Moreover, the observed genetic affinities between the PPNB samples and the modern populations of Cyprus and Crete seem to suggest that the Neolithic was first introduced into Europe through pioneer seafaring colonization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004401DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046922PMC
June 2014

Age-related tooth wear differs between forest and savanna primates.

PLoS One 2014 14;9(4):e94938. Epub 2014 Apr 14.

Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive UMR 5175, CNRS, Montpellier CEDEX 5, France.

Tooth wear in primates is caused by aging and ecological factors. However, comparative data that would allow us to delineate the contribution of each of these factors are lacking. Here, we contrast age-dependent molar tooth wear by scoring percent of dentine exposure (PDE) in two wild African primate populations from Gabonese forest and Kenyan savanna habitats. We found that forest-dwelling mandrills exhibited significantly higher PDE with age than savanna yellow baboons. Mandrills mainly feed on large tough food items, such as hard-shell fruits, and inhabit an ecosystem with a high presence of mineral quartz. By contrast, baboons consume large amounts of exogenous grit that adheres to underground storage organs but the proportion of quartz in the soils where baboons live is low. Our results support the hypothesis that not only age but also physical food properties and soil composition, particularly quartz richness, are factors that significantly impact tooth wear. We further propose that the accelerated dental wear in mandrills resulting in flatter molars with old age may represent an adaptation to process hard food items present in their environment.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0094938PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3986402PMC
May 2015

Brief communication: Developmental versus functional three-dimensional geometric morphometric-based modularity of the human proximal humerus.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2014 Jul 11;154(3):459-65. Epub 2014 Apr 11.

Anthropology Unit, Animal Biology Department, University of Barcelona, 08028, Barcelona, Spain.

The proximal humerus is formed by three secondary ossification centers during the postnatal trajectory of the human infant. The ossification centers later grow into the structures of the articular surface, major tubercle, and minor tubercle. There is a purported functional division between the articular surface and the tubercles, with the articular surface mainly responsible for the range of movement of the shoulder joint, and the tubercles bearing the insertions of the rotator cuff muscles, mainly devoted to securing the joint against humeral displacement. Using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics, we tested the presence of such developmental and functional divisions in the proximal humerus, applying the RV coefficient of Escoufier to these a priori hypothesized modules. Our results indicate that the proximal humerus might be a generally integrated structure. However, a weak signal for modular configuration was present, with slightly stronger support for the two modules depicting the boundaries between the purported functional regions of the epiphysis: the articular surface and the tubercles.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22520DOI Listing
July 2014

Diet-related buccal dental microwear patterns in Central African Pygmy foragers and Bantu-speaking farmer and pastoralist populations.

PLoS One 2013 19;8(12):e84804. Epub 2013 Dec 19.

Universitat de Barcelona, Departament de Biologia Animal, Barcelona, Spain.

Pygmy hunter-gatherers from Central Africa have shared a network of socioeconomic interactions with non-Pygmy Bantu speakers since agropastoral lifestyle spread across sub-Saharan Africa. Ethnographic studies have reported that their diets differ in consumption of both animal proteins and starch grains. Hunted meat and gathered plant foods, especially underground storage organs (USOs), are dietary staples for pygmies. However, scarce information exists about forager-farmer interaction and the agricultural products used by pygmies. Since the effects of dietary preferences on teeth in modern and past pygmies remain unknown, we explored dietary history through quantitative analysis of buccal microwear on cheek teeth in well-documented Baka pygmies. We then determined if microwear patterns differ among other Pygmy groups (Aka, Mbuti, and Babongo) and between Bantu-speaking farmer and pastoralist populations from past centuries. The buccal dental microwear patterns of Pygmy hunter-gatherers and non-Pygmy Bantu pastoralists show lower scratch densities, indicative of diets more intensively based on nonabrasive foodstuffs, compared with Bantu farmers, who consume larger amounts of grit from stoneground foods. The Baka pygmies showed microwear patterns similar to those of ancient Aka and Mbuti, suggesting that the mechanical properties of their preferred diets have not significantly changed through time. In contrast, Babongo pygmies showed scratch densities and lengths similar to those of the farmers, consistent with sociocultural contacts and genetic factors. Our findings support that buccal microwear patterns predict dietary habits independent of ecological conditions and reflect the abrasive properties of preferred or fallback foods such as USOs, which may have contributed to the dietary specializations of ancient human populations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0084804PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868657PMC
July 2014

Brief communication: Morphological effects of captivity: A geometric morphometric analysis of the dorsal side of the scapula in captive-bred and wild-caught Hominoidea.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2013 Oct 3;152(2):306-10. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Anthropology Unit, Animal Biology Department, University of Barcelona, Diagonal 643, 08028, Barcelona, Spain.

Many osteological collections from museums and research institutions consist mainly of remains from captive-bred animals. The restrictions related to the space of their enclosures and the nature of its substrate are likely to affect the locomotor and postural behaviors of captive-bred animals, which are widely considered uninformative regarding bone morphology and anatomical adaptations of wild animals, especially so in the case of extant great apes. We made a landmark-based geometric morphometrics analysis of the dorsal side of the scapular bone of both wild-caught and captive-bred great apes to clarify the effect of captivity on the morphology of a bone greatly involved in locomotion. The comparison suggested that captivity did not have a significant effect on the landmark configuration used, neither on average scapular shape nor shape variability, being impossible to distinguish the scapulae of a captive-bred animal from that of a wild-caught one. This indicates that the analyzed scapulae from captive Hominoidea specimens may be used in morphological or taxonomic analyses since they show no atypical morphological traits caused by living conditions in captivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22356DOI Listing
October 2013