Trigonid crest patterning in lower molars is distinctive among Late Pleistocene hominins such as Homo neanderthalensis , fossil Homo sapiens and modern humans. In this paper, we present an examination of trigonid crest patterning in the Middle Pleistocene permanent lower molar sample (n = 62) of Homo heidelbergensis from Sima de los Huesos (SH). Crest expression was assessed from 3D models of the enamel and the dentine surfaces that were produced using micro-computed tomography (microCT). The aims of our analysis are to: 1) characterize the pattern of trigonid crest expression at the outer enamel and enamel-dentine junction surfaces (OES and EDJ) of the SH sample, 2) evaluate the concordance of expression between both surfaces, and 3) place trigonid crest variation in the SH sample into a phylogenetic context. Our results reveal a greater variability in the expression of trigonid crests at the EDJ (14 types) compared to the OES (4 types). Despite this variability, in almost all cases the expression of a continuous mid-trigonid or distal crest at the OES corresponds with the expression of a continuous mesial/mid-trigonid or distal trigonid crest, respectively, at the EDJ. Thus, it is possible to predict the type of trigonid crest pattern that would be at the OES in the case of partially worn teeth. Our study points to increased variability in trigonid crest expression in M3s compared to M1s and M2s. Moreover, our analysis reveals that the SH sample matches broadly the trigonid crest patterns displayed by H. neanderthalensis and differs from those exhibited by H. sapiens, particularly in the almost constant expression of a continuous middle trigonid crest at the EDJ. However, SH hominins also exhibit patterns that have not been reported in H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens samples. Other aspects of the variability of the trigonid crest expression at the dentine are presented and discussed.
Permanent lower molars, Homo heidelbergensis , Sima de los Huesos, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens, Microtomography, Trigonid crest patterns