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Menendez Lumila | Fellow Postdoctoral
2018-09-01 - 2020-08-31 | Research area: EvoDevo
Influence of Diet on Human Face and Mandibular Variation

The face and mandible have been described as the two cranio-mandibular modules with the strongest environmental influence. Moreover, due to the prominent functional role that they have during chewing, it was suggested that diet mostly contribute to shape them. Most previous studies describe these modules independently, using either a local or a worldwide approach, and evaluating diet qualitatively. As a result, it is not clear the differential role that diet might have played on shaping the facial and mandibular variation during human evolution, while diet diversity is reduced and simplified, thus avoiding its multifactorial complexity. In contrast, in the present project I propose to analyse diet as a continuous quantitative variable, and also to evaluate the degree of association between diet diversity, facial, and mandibular variation, in order to address the differential influence that diet might have had on shaping craniofacial variation in humans. For this, I will use two morphometric databases, a worldwide sample, and a local one from the Argentinean Pampas that spans through the Holocene (9,000-500 years BP). In addition, I will estimate bite force, collect δ13C, δ15N, archaeological and ethnographic data, which will be used to quantitatively characterize diet, thus incorporating quantitative independent variables into the statistical model. It is expected to build a more suitable method for studying the influence of ecology on the skeleton. Therefore, this project would contribute to the on-going debate on the influence of ecological factors on humans’ skeleton, whose interpretations could be extended to the fossil record.