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Dental Evolution and Development


The Dental Evolution and Development Group focuses on what teeth and jaws can tell us about human evolution. Teeth and jaws dominant the human fossil record due to their high degree of mineralisation and contain a wealth of information that can be used to reconstruct the past. They form a crucial part of hypotheses about the number of species that have existed in the hominin clade as well as their relationships to each other. The structure of enamel and dentine can be used as a clock to reconstruct growth and development, and their chemical composition can reveal aspects of diet and mobility. Teeth can also record the relative health of individuals due to the sensitivity of their developing tissues to nutritional and/or physiological stress. In addition to helping us reconstruct the human family tree, teeth also provide many insights to the lived experience of our ancestors going back millions of years.  

Current research themes

Hominin systematics Much of our current work focuses on the taxonomic information contained in the size and shape of tooth crowns (including both the enamel surface and the dentine crown) and tooth roots. We specialize in the application of geometric morphometrics as a technique to incorporate the complex shapes of tooth crowns and roots to determine which species a fossil tooth belongs to and how similar species are to each other. We study all periods of human evolution as well as Miocene apes and extant non-human primates.

Developmental processes of teeth Our previous research has highlighted the importance that high-resolution microCT scanning can play in improving our understanding of the developmental processes responsible for the shape and complexity of primate tooth crowns. We are continuing this work through ongoing studies of discrete dental traits, patterns of dental eruption, dental tissue proportions and tooth root morphology. We are also trying to identify the causes of growth disturbances that are regularly recorded in the teeth of fossil hominins and living primates.

Human Fossil Record.org - we developed and maintain the online archive Human Fossil Record.org (https://human-fossil-record.org/) whose goal is to provide visual information to scientists and the general public about the fossil evidence for human evolution. This ERC-funded initiative works in collaboration with curatorial institutions around the world to provide access to information about bones and teeth of living and fossil non-human primates and fossil hominins.


Group Leader
Associated Scientist
Technical Staff

Mykolas Imbrasas