Performance analysis of deciduous morphology for detecting biological siblings

Kathleen S. Paul, Christopher Stojanowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objectives: Family-centered burial practices influence cemetery structure and can represent social group composition in both modern and ancient contexts. In ancient sites dental phenotypic data are often used as proxies for underlying genotypes to identify potential biological relatives. Here, we test the performance of deciduous dental morphological traits for differentiating sibling pairs from unrelated individuals from the same population. Materials and Methods: We collected 46 deciduous morphological traits for 69 sibling pairs from the Burlington Growth Centre's long term Family Study. Deciduous crown features were recorded following published standards. After variable winnowing, inter-individual Euclidean distances were generated using 20 morphological traits. To determine whether sibling pairs are more phenotypically similar than expected by chance we used bootstrap resampling of distances to generate P values. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) plots were used to evaluate the degree of clustering among sibling pairs. Results: Results indicate an average distance between siblings of 0.252, which is significantly less than 9,999 replicated averages of 69 resampled pseudo-distances generated from: 1) a sample of non-relative pairs (P < 0.001), and 2) a sample of relative and non-relative pairs (P < 0.001). MDS plots indicate moderate to strong clustering among siblings; families occupied 3.83% of the multidimensional space on average (versus 63.10% for the total sample). Conclusions: Deciduous crown morphology performed well in identifying related sibling pairs. However, there was considerable variation in the extent to which different families exhibited similarly low levels of phenotypic divergence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-629
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2015


  • biodistance
  • deciduous teeth
  • dental anthropology
  • dental genetics
  • kinship analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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