Dental size variability in Central African Pygmy hunter‐gatherers and Bantu‐speaking farmers
Abstract Objectives Odontometric studies of African populations show high within‐group variation in tooth size. Overall, North Africans exhibit smaller dimensions than groups from eastern and southern sub‐Saharan regions, but no previous studies have analyzed the full dental metrics among extant African Pygmy hunter‐gatherers and Bantu‐speaking farmers. Furthermore, the population variability in tooth crown sizes from equatorial rainforest regions remains to be elucidated. Materials and Methods The mesiodistal and buccolingual diameters of the permanent teeth (I1‐M2) were measured in vivo using high‐resolution replicas from Baka Pygmies and Mvae and Yassa Bantu‐speakers from Cameroon (western Africa). Analyses of variance were used to record sex‐related and population‐level differences in tooth sizes, and a principal component analysis of geometrically scaled measures was used to plot the odontometric variability among groups. Results Cameroonian Baka Pygmies differ in dental size from their Bantu‐speaking neighbors. Molar teeth are larger in Pygmies than in Bantu individuals, while the anterior dentition is larger in the Bantu. Baka males exhibit significantly larger teeth than females, whereas sexual dimorphism in non‐Pygmies is only present in the anterior dentition. Discussion Odontometric patterns and the degree of sexual dimorphism in dental size differ among Central African groups, indicating adaptation to their different forager and farmer lifestyles. In particular, the admixture of Bantu‐speakers in Baka populations is smaller than that in other western Pygmy groups. The greater dental phenetic diversity in Baka compared to that of the smaller‐toothed farmers suggests that ecogenetic and microevolutionary factors are influencing a particular divergence scenario.
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