McMillen 1 Makayla Soto Anthropology 10 December 2017 Cranial and Dental Patterns of Early Hominids While evolution has greatly changed the face of humans since our first primate-like ancestors, characteristics indicative of early hominids can be seen in humans’ cranial and dental patterns today. Certain features, such as small molars and canines can be traced all the way back to the first species in human lineage which lived between six and seven million years ago. Whereas defining characteristics such as a receding forehead, large eye sockets, and oversized front teeth have deviated from homo sapiens, brain size and cranial volume have increased greatly since our first common ancestor, Sahelanthropus tchadensis. Sahelanthropus tchadensis had a much smaller cranial volume of around 360-370 ml, compared to modern humans at around 1300 ml (“Sahelanthropus Tchadensis”). Sahelanthropus tchadensis and other members of the Ardipithecus genus had early human features such as a short middle region of the face and shorter canines than their ancestors. They developed shorter canines to adapt to a primarily rough fibrous plant and seed based diet (“Sahelanthropus Tchadensis”). However, their faces retained traits predominantly ape-like, defined by an elongated brow ridge, extended frontal jaw, and a sloping face. The most compelling evidence leading to the conclusion that Sahelanthropus was in fact hominid and not ape, is the endocast made from fossil remnants of its’ skull. The Scientific American reported that “In a presentation given on April 2 at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society, Bienvenu reported that the endocast shows strongly posteriorly projecting occipital lobes, a tilted brainstem, and a laterally expanded prefrontal cortex, among other hominid brain characteristics” (“Brain Shape…”). All of these
McMillen 2 characteristics are indicative of a bipedal hominid, which point to it being the first in the lineage that would later develop into modern humans. From the Ardipithecus family which Sahelanthropus belonged to, the Australopithecus genus later evolved. Early Australopithecus species were the first to develop a larger skull with smaller teeth, reminiscent of Homo sapiens; however, their slanted face, still relatively small brain size (although slightly larger than their ancestors of the Ardipithecus family), and long arms, show that they retained the primate-like attributes of early hominids. An article entitled
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