Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Amy Rector Verrelli

Second Advisor

Brian Verrelli


Dental morphology and tooth shape have been used to recreate the

dietary adaptations for extinct species, and thus dental variation can provide

information on the relationship between fossil species and their

paleoenvironments. Variation in living species with known behaviors can provide

a baseline for interpreting morphology, and behavior, in the fossil record.

Tooth occlusal surface outlines in hominins and non-hominin primates, and other

mammals, have been used for assessments of taxonomic significance, with

variability often considered as being primarily phylogenetic. Few studies have

attempted to assess how diet might influence the pattern of variability in closely

related species. Here the occlusal surface shape variability in anterior and postcanine

maxillary dentition in primates is measured to assess whether the

relationship between diet and variability is consistent.

Data were collected from five non-hominin primates in a range of dietary

categories, as well as two hominin species, including the derived Paranthropus

robustus and a gracile australopith. Mapping a series of 50 sliding semilandmarks

based on 2-D photographs using tpsDig software, occlusal surfaces

were outlined. Thereafter, outline shapes were quantified using Elliptical Fourier

Functional Analysis, and principle components and multivariate analyses were

preformed to explore the pattern of intra and interspecific variability in occlusal

outlines.These results suggest that there is not a clear relationship between dietary

feeding adaptations for all categories examined and selection for larger

premolars and molars, as well as smaller incisors, led to less variation in both

anterior and post-canine teeth of the fossil hominin Paranthropus robustus.


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