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J Hum Evol. 2008 Feb;54(2):205-24. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

Incremental dental development: methods and applications in hominoid evolutionary studies.

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Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.


This survey of dental microstructure studies reviews recent methods used to quantify developmental variables (daily secretion rate, periodicity of long-period lines, extension rate, formation time) and applications to the study of hominoid evolution. While requisite preparative and analytical methods are time consuming, benefits include more precise identification of tooth crown initiation and completion than conventional radiographic approaches. Furthermore, incremental features facilitate highly accurate estimates of the speed and duration of crown and root formation, stress experienced during development (including birth), and age at death. These approaches have provided insight into fossil hominin and Miocene hominoid life histories, and have also been applied to ontogenetic and taxonomic studies of fossil apes and humans. It is shown here that, due to the rapidly evolving nature of dental microstructure studies, numerous methods have been applied over the past few decades to characterize the rate and duration of dental development. Yet, it is often unclear whether data derived from different methods are comparable or which methods are the most accurate. Areas for future research are identified, including the need for validation and standardization of certain methods, and new methods for integrating nondestructive structural and developmental studies are highlighted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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