The Dental Anthropology Group of the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH) has just published in the journal Comptes Rendus PALEVOL a dental histology work in which the sample from the Sima de los Huesos site in Atapuerca (Burgos) is compared for the first time with dental samples from the Krapina Neanderthal site in Croatia, as well as with different current human populations.
This is a comparative study focused on canines, in which some Homo antecessor teeth have also been included, whose results show that the populations of the Pleistocene of Atapuerca already showed the pattern considered typically Neanderthal in its enamel and dentin volumes.
“The teeth of Sima de los Huesos have large dimensions of dentin in their crown and root, as well as thin enamel. East histological pattern it has traditionally been considered a distinctive trait of Neanderthals, and has made it possible to differentiate them both from other groups and from modern humans ”, says Cecilia García Campos, main author of the article.
In addition, the results of this study could support an early appearance of this very characteristic dental feature, which was observed as early as 800,000 years ago in Homo antecessor, staying in later groups during the Middle Pleistocene.
The fossils found in Sima de los Huesos were initially considered to belong to the taxon Homo heidelbergensis, a species that populated Europe before the Neanderthals, whose name comes from the jaw found in the town of Heidelberg (Germany).
However, a study led by Juan Luis Arsuaga, from the UCM-ISCIII Joint Center for Evolution and Human Behavior, and published in 2014 in the magazine Science, questioned this assignment, proposing to remove the population of the Sima from this taxon due to the evident similarities it presented with Homo neanderthalensis.
Later, two genetic studies of the Sima de los Huesos, published in the journal Nature in 2014 and 2016, they reinforced this decision by showing that These hominids belonged to the Neanderthal evolutionary lineage due to its close relationship with the ancestors of Neanderthals.
"The results obtained from the dental histology of the individuals from the Sima de los Huesos support the close relationship that must have existed between the hominids of the Middle Pleistocene of Atapuerca and the later Neanderthal groups that inhabited Europe", points out Cecilia García Campos.
CeciliaGarcía-Campos et al. "Enamel and dentine dimensions of the Pleistocene hominins from Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain): A comparative study of canine teeth" Comptes Rendus Palevol November 30, 2018.