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Millions of Years of Evolutionary History Recorded In Teeth

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The teeth may provide clues to our daily lives and further back into our evolutionary history. Teeth have the ability to lock lots of information into their physical structure. The information will remain unchanged in the tooth for millions of years.

Fossil teeth have, therefore, provided valuable information and insights into the evolution of human beings. Researchers have learned more about diets, extended childhoods, and other unique features.

Tooth Chemistry Reveals Past Diet

An analysis found carbon isotopes in the mineral structure of the tooth enamel. C-12 and C-13 isotopes are the most common from plant-based diets. Trees and shrubs will have a small proportion of C-13 whereas grasses and sedge contain the largest amounts of C-13 in their cells.

Early humans had a diversified diet, according to the researchers. Teeth dating as far back as 3.5 million years ago reveal that they ate from trees and shrubs as well as from tropical grasses and sedges. It is attributed to the early humans being mobile and moving from the woodlands to the grasslands and the ability to survive in different environments.

Counting the Growth Lines

Tooth enamel forms in layers which can be classified into daily growth lines and the lines that represent an eight-day period. Counting the growth line in fossil teeth helps estimate the rate at which teeth formed in our ancestors. Teeth in our ancestors developed fast since they grew more rapidly than modern human beings. Childhood is now longer compared to the ancient times.

What Will Our Teeth Tell Future Anthropologists?

Future anthropologists will be fascinated by the differences in diet, the extent of dental conditions, poor jaw development, among many other interesting bits of information.

The soft foods and refined sugars are to blame for the rise of dental maladies. Early humans had an impeccable dental record with very few dental diseases. Remarkable differences in diet are as a result of vast choices in what people eat with some preferring to become vegetarians.

Future anthropologists will marvel at the alterations that people have carried out on their teeth. Think about your oral health today and keep in mind that future researchers might come across your fossilized teeth and study them.

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Dr Ashley Davenport BDS MFGDP(UK)

I qualified as a dentist in 1995 and can honestly say that I have been doing a job that I love for the past 20 plus years. Most people who know me well know that dentistry is a passion for me and that if I won the lottery I would still want to have some dentistry in my life. I get huge satisfaction from treating patients and making a difference to ...

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Last updated: May 18th, 2024

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