4 comments on “Wisdom Teeth and our Ancient Human Ancestors

  1. “Tasmanian Aborigines have NO wisdom teeth and almost 100% of indigenous Mexicans all have wisdom teeth according to statistics. And the difference seems to be related to the PAX9 gene and other genes.”

    I have a curious question about this Roberto? Are there any correlations between these two peoples and the different dental patterns between Old World Primates and New World Primates in this?

    The Tasmanian situation is interesting!

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  2. There are several scholarly studies and thesis’ regarding this which you can find by typing “dentition in Tasmanians” into a search engine. Some were done in the 1940s that were very good actually.

    In terms of old world and new world monkeys there are some differences. For example, NW monkeys mostly have flat noses and their nostrils are far apart and open to the side. In contrast, in OW monkeys the nose tends to be facing down and the nostrils are closer together and open either downward or forward. Apes and humans share this nasal feature too. Further, in NW monkeys we find that they have 3 premolars and their molars are rather large but the last molar tends to be small or sometimes even absent. In comparison, in OW monkeys we find they have 2 premolars and the premolar in the mandible is specialized for sharpening the upper canine (this is called Sectorial). Also their molars have sharply connected cusps. Finally, in terms of tails in NW monkeys were find some species such as howler and spider monkeys have prehensile tails meaning the tail is able to grasp and hold objects. In OW monkeys all have tails but they are not prehensile. They also have thick calloused skin around their tail region which supports them as they sit.

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  3. Something else I should also cite here is results of a study done in 2013. In that years new research results were presented at the American Assoc for the Advancement of Science that could explain why some ethnic groups like the Inuit have a low occurrence of wisdom teeth and Tasmanian aborigines who have none.

    The theory is that thousands of years ago a random mutation arose and suppressed wisdom teeth formation in some groups according to research done by Alan Mann of Princeton.

    The oldest fossils missing 3rd molars (wisdom teeth) are from China and are between 300-400 kyr. This suggests that the first mutation may have taken place there suppressing wisdom teeth formation in that population.

    Mann holds the view that when the human brain began to increase in size it created a problem and bigger brains required narrower jaws so that the jaw could still connect to the skull. He believes that the genes controlling the number of teeth evolve independently from those that control brain development and size and this caused a problem and the jaw was no longer big enough to accommodate wisdom teeth.

    Regarding the Inuit people they likely originated in Asia which just happens to also be the place where we find the first fossil remains without wisdom teeth. The Inuit like other Asians tend to have flatter faces than Europeans and Africans which means their jaws are even narrower than ours and, thus, this leaves less room for teeth. Inuit teeth also tend to be larger than other ethnic groups so the mutation Mann postulates would be advantageous to them especially.

    Early researchers described indigenous Tasmanians as having elongated jaws that were massive and had large teeth. These people’s skulls are more rounded than other Australian native peoples too. They also have many negroid traits but are unrelated to Africans.

    Another thing to consider is that these people have Denisovan DNA and what we are calling “Denisovan” may simply be some late surviving H. erectus or erectus hybrid. Or maybe some other species we don’t even know about yet. The Denisovan mystery is far from settled as we don’t even have a skeleton of one. Nor do we have a skull of one. So what were they? Maybe they were a species who never did have the 3rd molar (wisdom teeth)and passed that trait on to indigenous Tasmanians and others.

    In find it interesting that the earliest fossils without wisdom teeth are found in China/Asia. IF this was due to an evolutionary adaptation or mutation then might that not suggest ancestors in that part of the world were evolving faster and maybe differently than those in Africa and Europe? I would consider not having wisdom teeth to be a trait of the most evolved human. So why is this trait not found in Africa where modern humans allegedly evolved from? Why is this trait found in China/Asia first instead? Some people have answered me by saying wisdom teeth were needed to chew tough plant foods and I agree. But, what this means is people in SE Asia didn’t need them because they weren’t eating tough plant foods? Sorry but that doesn’t fly! SE Asia has some of the toughest plants on the planet so I fail to see why human ancestors living there wouldn’t need 3rd molars.

    When it comes to 3rd molars (wisdom teeth) and China/Asia something just doesn’t add up! I have long thought we are missing something BIG in SE Asia and the more we uncover in that part of the world the more I think this is so. You know there was once a time when early researchers thought SE Asia was the cradle of humankind especially with the discovery of Java Man (a H. erectus). Then along came the hoax called Piltdown Man as some were trying to claim Europe was the cradle of humankind. Then came Africa and the Out of Africa theory and suddenly the main focus was there and Asia was mostly ignored. Frankly, I think our work in SE Asia is very much unfinished!!

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