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Publication Detail
The Taxonomic Status of the Middle Pleistocene Hominins: A 3D Geometric Morphometric Investigation of Variation in the Supraorbital Region
  • Publication Type:
    Thesis/Dissertation
  • Authors:
    White S
  • Date awarded:
    2018
  • Supervisors:
    Hillson S,Soligo C,Pope M
  • Status:
    Accepted
  • Awarding institution:
    UCL (University College London)
  • Language:
    English
Abstract
This study investigated the significance of variation in the supraorbital morphology of the Middle Pleistocene hominins (MPH), using 3D geometric morphometric methods and a comparative taxonomic framework. The morphology of the supraorbital and orbital region of fourteen MPH from Africa, Asia, and Europe was recorded using 230 3D landmarks and surface semilandmarks. A comparative sample of 460 primates (Pan, Gorilla, Papio and Macaca) and 237 hominins (Early Pleistocene to Holocene) were included to model supraorbital variation in groups of varying taxonomic classification, ecology, and geographic and temporal range. It was found that the fourteen MPH had relatively low morphological distinctiveness in relation to established species, although they did cluster together in most morphometric analyses. Nevertheless, the variation in the supraorbital and orbital region of the MPH was not larger than could be expected in a single, cross-continental species, and the validity of continental subgroups within the MPH could not be supported based on comparisons to established primate and hominin taxa. Instead, results indicated that some of the MPH may represent transitional specimens or members of other hominin lineages. Sex could not be reliably estimated for the MPH using patterns of sexual dimorphism in other groups of known sex, and while differences in size, allometry, and encephalisation were found to have significant effects on variation in the supraorbital region, geography and chronology did not have significant effects on variation within the MPH. Based on the application of a morphological species concept and comparative primate and hominin data on supraorbital variation, the existence of multiple MPH taxa is indicated by the results found here. It is therefore suggested that the term Homo heidelbergensis (sensu lato) be applied to a restricted, cross-continental group of MPH (Bodo, Kabwe, Saldanha, Petralona, Arago 21, Ceprano, Narmada, and possibly Eliye Springs).
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