Mystery Solved: Molars follow sizes predicted by ‘inhibitory cascade’

Researchers have been able to solve the mystery as to why human wisdom teeth are remarkably smaller than the ones found in the fossils of homonin species. Evolutionary biologists have said that with evolution, human teeth have reduced to much smaller size than previous estimates.

The study led by evolutionary biologist Alistair Evans of Monash University in Australia said, “Teeth can tell us a lot about the lives of our ancestors, and how they evolved over the last 7 million years. What makes modern humans different from our fossil relatives?”

Researchers said that the shrinking of wisdom teeth may be explained by basic developmental mechanics that are being shared by most mammals. In the research, it has been found that wisdom teeth follow the sizes predicted by ‘the inhibitory cascade’- a rule that explains how the size of one tooth affects the size of the tooth next to it.

Evans was of the view that the new study has shown that the pattern is lot simpler than what was presumed earlier. Researchers have used extensive database on fossil hominins and modern humans gathered over many decades as well as high resolution 3D imaging to see what is present inside the fossil teeth.

The research team then applied the findings to two main groups of hominins- the species in the genus Homo and australopiths. They discovered that both groups followed the inhibitory cascade, but with a slight difference.

It is quite exciting that this inhibitory cascade rule could be used to predict the size of missing fossil teeth. The new revelation will reliably estimate how big the missing teeth were. The findings have many other uses, including interpreting new hominin fossil finds and looking at what were the real drivers of human evolutions and shedding light on evolutionary past of humans.

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