Dental macrowear and mandibular morphology as proxies for mastication in Gigantopithecus blacki: how the ‘King Kong’ cousin of early Homo in Palaeolithic Southeast Asia chewed itself to extinction

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Dental macrowear and mandibular morphology as proxies for mastication in Gigantopithecus blacki: how the ‘King Kong’ cousin of early Homo in Palaeolithic Southeast Asia chewed itself to extinction

Type: Master thesis
Title: Dental macrowear and mandibular morphology as proxies for mastication in Gigantopithecus blacki: how the ‘King Kong’ cousin of early Homo in Palaeolithic Southeast Asia chewed itself to extinction
Author: Lubeek, Juliën Kavish
Issue Date: 2017-08-31
Keywords: Gigantopithecus blacki
palaeodiet
mastication
extinction
dental macrowear
mandibular morphology
photogrammetry
occlusal fingerprint analysis
Palaeolithic
Southeast Asia
Abstract: In this Master Thesis a novel approach is presented to study the extinction of the giant hominid Gigantopithecus blacki from Palaeolithic Southeast Asia, around 300 ka in the Middle Pleistocene, while early Homo survived. This novel approach consists of alternative solutions to established methods, based on a multidisciplinary background. It concerns palaeozoloogical questions from an archaeological interest that require to be solved with 3D virtual reality methods, including 3D Photogrammetry and Occlusal Fingerprint Analysis (OFA). After Comparative Morphometric Analyses (CMA’s) on the dentition and mandibles of 4 analogue hominid species (G. gorilla, P. pygmaeus, P. boisei and H. sapiens), 3D Photogrammetry and Occlusal Fingerprint Analysis (OFA) were performed on isolated G. blacki teeth. The mastication of G. blacki, based on dental macrowear and mandibular morphology as proxies, could reveal many inferences on the relationship between mastication and extinction. These inferences included: (1) dental occlusal surface area which facilitated dental wear; (2) the distribution of dental wear facets per wear types; (3) the orientation of wear facets; (4) dental arcade shape; (5) specific morphometric regions used during mastication; (6) specific adaptation to a restricted palaeoenvironment (habitat and niche); and (7) palaeodiet. Surprisingly, in contrast to the hypothesis that mastication in G. blacki would be most similar to P. pygmaeus, it tends to be more similar to a G. gorilla, with a comparable ‘specialization-factor’ to P. boisei. However, the relationship found between mastication and extinction is more complex than it initially seemed. Although there exists a causal relationship, in which mastication determined palaeodiet, which eventually caused extinction of G. blacki, the reality might be more complex than this rather simplified relationship. Therefore, the relationship between mastication and extinction is not one-to-one, but should always be considered in association with other factors. Comparative interpretations between G. blacki and H. erectus (sensu lato) on ‘failure versus success’ from an ‘inferior versus superior’ approach, are false and not justified. However, such a hierarchical comparison does seems justified with H. floresiensis. As it was vulnerable to similar palaeoenvironmental fluctuations as G. blacki. Overall, dental macrowear and mandibular morphology as reliable proxies for mastication and extinction have great potential, but should be interpreted cautiously to avoid over-interpretations. Therefore, this Master Thesis is a pilot-study for future research.
Description: This Master Thesis was made possible by studying several collection specimen of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum, Frankfurt am Main (Germany) and Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden). Please understand that, due to multiple academic reasons and a restricted time frame, this version is meant only for Leiden University. For the most recently updated version of this Master Thesis, please contact the author.
Supervisor: Kolfschoten, M. van
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology (Master)
Specialisation: Palaeozoology
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/52528
 

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