Am J Hum Biol 2016 Jan-Feb;28(1):118-28. Epub 2015 Jun 30.
Centro Nacional Patagónico, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Puerto Madryn, U9120ACF, Argentina.
Objective: Here we evaluate morphological integration patterns and magnitudes in different skull regions to detect if shifts in morphological integration are correlated to the appearance of more processed (softer) diets.
Methods: To do so, three transitional populations were analyzed, including samples from groups that inhabited the same geographical region and for which the evidence shows that major changes occurred in their subsistence mode. Ninety three-dimensional landmarks were digitized on 357 skulls and used as the raw data to develop geometric morphometric analyses. The landmark coordinates were divided into several different regions of biomechanical interest, following a three-level hierarchically nested scheme: the whole skull, further subdivided into neurocranium (divided into the vault and basicranium), the facial (divided into the lower and upper facial), and the masticatory apparatus (divided into alveolar, temporal, and temporo-mandibular joint).
Results: Our results indicate that the morphological integration and variability patterns significantly vary across skull regions but are maintained across the transitions. The alveolar border and the lower facial are the regions manifesting greater value of morphological integration and variability, while the upper facial, the temporo-mandibular joint, and the basicranium are highly integrated and poorly variable.
Conclusions: The transition to softer diets increased morphological variation across cranial regions that are more exposed to masticatory strains effects.