Talking heads: Morphological variation in the human mandible over the last 500 years in the Netherlands

Bosman, A., Moisik, S. R., Dediu, D., & Waters-Rist, A. (2017). Talking heads: Morphological variation in the human mandible over the last 500 years in the Netherlands. HOMO - Journal of Comparative Human Biology, 68(5), 329-342. doi:10.1016/j.jchb.2017.08.002.
The primary aim of this paper is to assess patterns of morphological variation in the mandible to investigate changes during the last 500 years in the Netherlands. Three-dimensional geometric morphometrics is used on data collected from adults from three populations living in the Netherlands during three time-periods. Two of these samples come from Dutch archaeological sites (Alkmaar, 1484-1574, n = 37; and Middenbeemster, 1829-1866, n = 51) and were digitized using a 3D laser scanner. The third is a modern sample obtained from MRI scans of 34 modern Dutch individuals. Differences between mandibles are dominated by size. Significant differences in size are found among samples, with on average, males from Alkmaar having the largest mandibles and females from Middenbeemster having the smallest. The results are possibly linked to a softening of the diet, due to a combination of differences in food types and food processing that occurred between these time-periods. Differences in shape are most noticeable between males from Alkmaar and Middenbeemster. Shape differences between males and females are concentrated in the symphysis and ramus, which is mostly the consequence of sexual dimorphism. The relevance of this research is a better understanding of the anatomical variation of the mandible that can occur over an evolutionarily short time, as well as supporting research that has shown plasticity of the mandibular form related to diet and food processing. This plasticity of form must be taken into account in phylogenetic research and when the mandible is used in sex estimation of skeletons.
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