Portable confocal scanning optical microscopy of Australopithecus africanus enamel structure

T. G. Bromage, R. Lacruz, A. Perez-Ochoa, A. Boyde

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The study of hominid enamel microanatomical features is usually restricted to the examination of fortuitous enamel fractures by low magnification stereo-zoom microscopy or, rarely, because of its intrusive nature, by high magnification compound microscopy of ground thin sections. To contend with limitations of magnification and specimen preparation, a Portable Confocal Scanning Optical Microscope (PCSOM) has been specifically developed for the non-contact and non-destructive imaging of early hominid hard tissue microanatomy. This unique instrument can be used for high resolution imaging of both the external features of enamel, such as perikymata and microwear, as well as internal structures, such as cross striations and striae of Retzius, from naturally fractured or worn enamel surfaces. Because there is veritably no specimen size or shape that cannot be imaged (e.g. fractured enamel surfaces on intact cranial remains), study samples may also be increased over what would have been possible before. We have applied this innovative technology to the study of enamel microanatomical features from naturally occurring occluso-cervical fractures of the South African hominid, Australopithecus africanus representing different tooth types. We present for the first time detailed information regarding cross striation periodicity for this species and, in addition, we present data on striae-EDJ angles in a large sample of teeth and crown formation time for a molar of A. africanus. Our results characterize a pattern of enamel development for A. africanus, which is different to that reported for the genus Paranthropus, as previously observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 2007

Publication series

NameVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
ISSN (Print)1877-9077


  • Hominid skeletal microstructure
  • Portable confocal microscope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Palaeontology


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