Dental cementum virtual histology of Neanderthal teeth from Krapina (Croatia, 130-120 kyr): An informed estimate of age, sex and adult stressors

Paola Cerrito, Alessia Nava, Davorka Radovcic, Dusan Boric, Leonardo Cerrito, Tricia Basdeo, Guido Ruggiero, David W. Frayer, Alexander P. Kao, Luca Bondioli, Lucia Mancini, Timothy G. Bromage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The evolution of modern human reproductive scheduling is an aspect of our life history that remains vastly uncomprehended. The present work aims to address this gap by validating a non-destructive cutting-edge methodology to infer adult life-history events on modern teeth with known life history and then applying it to fossil specimens. We use phase-contrast synchrotron X-ray microtomography to visualize the dental cementum of 21 specimens: nine contemporary humans; 10 Neanderthals from Krapina (Croatia, 130 120 kyr); one Neolithic Homo sapiens from Ajmana (Serbia); and one Mesolithic H. sapiens from Vlasac (Serbia). We were able to correctly detect and time (root mean square error = 2.1 years; R2= 0.98) all reproductive (menarche, parturition, menopause) and other physiologically impactful events in the modern sample. Nonetheless, we could not distinguish between the causes of the events detected. For the fossil specimens, we estimated age at death and age at occurrence of biologically significant events. Finally, we performed an exploratory analysis regarding possible sexual dimorphism in dental cementum microstructure, which allowed us to correctly infer the sex of the Neolithic specimen, for which the true value was known via DNA analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20210820
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume19
Issue number187
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • dental cementum
  • Fossil hominins
  • Life-history evolution
  • Neanderthals
  • Synchrotron X-ray microtomography
  • Virtual histology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering

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