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EVOLUTIONARY FEATURES OF JAWS AND TEETH IN RESPECT TO DIET IN EARLY HOMINIDS.

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Around 7 million years ago ape-like creatures moved away from the forests and
began living on the grass-covered plains. As they spent less time in trees and more time
traveling across open ground evolutionary pressure favored those with longer legs and
they began walking upright. Around one million years ago they learned how to keep fires
burning and began cooking their meals. Cooked food required less chewing and so their
jaws evolved to become smaller.
It has long been realized that the key trends in human evolution i.e. the things that
separate us from our ape cousins and ancestors were:
terrestriality - coming down out of the trees.
bipedalism - having to walk on two feet (obligate, not occasional).
encephalization - increase in brain size in relation to body and development of language.
feeding apparatus - Change in masticatory apparatus in respect to changing diet.
The size, shape, number, construction, location and life span of teeth reflect their function
and their evolutionary history. We retain many of the early patterns from the ancient past:
the order of eruption, the interdigitation of teeth, the regional specializations of teeth into
classes and the replacement of deciduous teeth with permanent successors are among a
few of those patterns. Our teeth reflect their evolutionary history.
The word "hominid" refers to members of the family of humans, Hominidae;
which consists of all species on our side of the last common ancestor of humans and
living apes. The group of early hominids include the Australopithecines, the Homo
habilis and the Homo erectus. The Australopithecines existed roughly 2-3 million years
ago and for a brief period roamed the earth with the Homo habilis which proved to be the
stronger species outliving the Australopithecines. The extinction of the Australopithecine
1 million years ago in the opinion of many palientologists could have been due to a
cluster of reasons including inability to cope with change in available diet and a weaker
programmed genetic adaptation. As hominids evolved, increasing in body size there was
a shift from a predominantly insectivorous to a furgivorous or herbivorous diet, changes
also occurred in the shape of the jaw apparatus as well as in the form of individual teeth
to compensate for change in diet.
The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of diet on early evolutionary
hominins (hunter-gatherers hominids) and the resultant changes in their jaw and teeth size
and shape and furthermore to postulate an evidence based conclusion for the reason of
extinction of the Australopithecines.
This will be a descriptive cross sectional study using cast replicas ofhomindjaws
and skulls available at the National Museum of Kenya. Data will be collected through
detailed skull analysis using a custom made checklist and biometric measurements of the
dental arcades, jaw lengths, tooth measurements, dental arch lengths and wear facets. The
sample size will depend on the number of casts available. There will be no sampling
process employed as the limitation of the number of jaws available denies this tool of
unbiased data collection. Therefore all specimens made available will be examined. This
iv
data shall be presented in form of bars, tables and pie charts. Data generated will be
entered in a computer and analyzed with SPSS version.
The information collected from this study may be used by interested persons from
all fields in discerning the correlation in the jaws and teeth in relation to diet of the early
hominid evolutionary species.
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