Mandibular condyle traits in Neanderthals and other Homo: a comparative, correlative, and ontogenetic study

Rebecca Jabbour, Gary D. Richards, John Y Anderson

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The relationship between the mandibular condyle and the crest of the mandibular notch (CMN) has historically entered into discussions of Neanderthal characteristics and was recently suggested to be autapomorphic in Neanderthals. The Neanderthal CMN has been described as intersecting the condyle in the middle, while the modern human CMN runs to the condyle's lateral end. A large lateral condylar tubercle (LCT) has also been observed in Neanderthals and thought to be related to medial (or less lateral) CMN position. In addition, the presence of a less lateral CMN early in ontogeny, as seen in the Amud 7 infant, has been argued to demonstrate great evolutionary divergence in Neanderthals. Using a scoring system for each trait, this study first examines the expression of CMN position and LCT size in 102 adult modern humans and in samples of Neanderthals and other fossil Homo. Then, CMN position is scored in 208 subadult modern humans to elucidate the ontogeny of this trait. Results show that CMN position is not autapomorphic in Neanderthals, but Neanderthals have significantly more CMNs in the least-lateral score category than does the modern human sample. Large LCTs are found to be strongly predictive of less lateral CMN position, although less lateral CMN position may exist in the absence of a large LCT. The complex ontogenetic pattern of CMN expression observed indicates that features of subadult and adult condylar morphology cannot be constructively compared without first considering subadult morphology on its own functional and developmental terms.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


  • Biology
  • Life Sciences

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