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J Hum Evol. 2008 Feb;54(2):225-35. Epub 2007 Dec 21.

Variation in modern human premolar enamel formation times: implications for Neandertals.

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Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4BW, UK.


A recent study demonstrated that variation in enamel cap crown formation in the anterior teeth is greater than that in the molars from two geographically distinct populations: native indigenous southern Africans and northern Europeans. Eighty southern African and 69 northern European premolars (P3 and P4) were analyzed in the present study. Cuspal, lateral, and total enamel formation times were assessed. Although cuspal enamel formation times were not consistently different between the two populations, both lateral and total enamel formation times generally were. Bonferroni-corrected t-tests showed that southern Africans had significantly shorter lateral enamel formation time for five of the six cusps, as well as significantly shorter total enamel formation time for these same cusps. An analysis of covariance performed on the lingual cusps of the upper third and fourth premolars showed that differences in enamel formation times between these populations remained when crown height was statistically controlled. A further goal of this study was to ascertain, based on perikymata counts, what Neandertal periodicities would have to be in order for their teeth to have lateral enamel formation times equivalent to either southern Africans or northern Europeans. To this end, perikymata were counted on 32 Neandertal premolars, and the counts were inserted into regression formulae relating perikymata counts to periodicity for each population and each tooth type. Neandertal enamel formation times could be equivalent to those of southern Africans or northern Europeans only if their hypothetical periodicities fall within the range of periodicities for African apes and modern humans (i.e., 6-12 days). The analysis revealed that both populations could encompass Neandertal timings, with hypothetical periodicities based on the southern African population necessitating a lower range of periodicity (6-8 days) than those based on the northern European population (8-11 days).

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