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Gradual Change in Human Tooth Size in the Late Pleistocene and Post- Pleistocene

C. Loring Brace, Karen R. Rosenberg and Kevin D. Hunt
Evolution
Vol. 41, No. 4 (Jul., 1987), pp. 705-720
DOI: 10.2307/2408882
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2408882
Page Count: 16
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Gradual Change in Human Tooth Size in the Late Pleistocene and Post- Pleistocene
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Abstract

Starting with the onset of the last glaciation approximately 100,000 years ago and continuing to the end of the Late Pleistocene approximately 10,000 years ago, human tooth size began to reduce at a rate of 1% every 2,000 years. Both the mesial-distal and the buccal-lingual dimensions of mandibular and maxillary teeth were undergoing the same rate of reduction. From the beginning of the Post-Pleistocene until the present, the overall rate of dental reduction doubled, becoming approximately 1% per thousand years. Buccal-lingual dimensions are now reducing twice as fast as mesial-distal dimensions, and maxillary teeth are reducing at an even more rapid rate than mandibular teeth. Late Pleistocene rates are comparable in Europe and the Middle East. The Post-Pleistocene rates are also the same for Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. It is suggested that the cookery at the beginning of the Late Pleistocene allowed the earlier changes to occur. The use of pottery within the last 10,000 years further reduced the amount of selection that had previously maintained usable tooth substance. Reduction then occurred as a consequence of the Probable Mutation Effect (Brace, 1963; McKee, 1984).

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