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Hello, my name is Richard Scott.
I'm giving a talk on a topic that may be new and that were unusual to many of you.
The title is "Global Variation in Human Tooth Crown and
Root Morphology: Anthropological and Forensic Applications".
Currently, I'm a professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno
and I like the image that I'm showing you.
While, I certainly don't pretend to be walking in Darwin's footsteps,
but Darwin's statue at the British Museum of Natural History is an inspiration to us all.
I'm sure many of you are wondering why teeth are
such an obsession in anthropology and in physical anthropology in particular.
So, I always like to start off when I explain to
people why I have spent over 50 years studying teeth,
the major advantages of doing so.
First of all, teeth are the only hard part of
the skeleton that are directly observable in living individuals.
And so, you can see there in that first line that there is
a picture of a cast and next to that is a picture of teeth and a skeleton.
So, I have studied modern populations and many many skeletal populations,
and one nice thing is sometimes you can do
direct ancestral descendant sequences studying teeth.
The second thing is a variability.
The teeth vary in a myriad of ways.
I'm going to focus mostly on those that are genetically impacted,
but they vary in size, morphology and number.
And most of you have heard of missing wisdom teeth,
that's what I'm referring to in number,
it's called agenesis and it impacts the third molar primarily,
but also the lateral incisors and second premolars and a few other teeth.
That's not one of our key traits,
so I'll move on from there.
Teeth also preserve extremely well and are one of
the primary parts of the skeleton that remain into deep history.
Mammal-like reptiles are known almost
exclusively from teeth going back over a hundred million years.
And of course, in the hominid fossil record,
the Australopithecines, Homo erectus, et cetera,
are very well known from a dental standpoint,
and you can see some Neanderthal upper incisors there that, you know, a dentist could work on.
And finally, one reason teeth are so useful in both anthropological and forensic context,
is that they are under
strong hereditary control and of course one of the motivations for that is that,
they're so important for survival in animals
that there's not a lot of room for environmental variation.
Of course, humans are a little different in that we now have dental care and everything.
But in earlier times,
teeth were absolutely essential for its survival,
and so were strongly genetically programmed.