Tools and utensils have shrunk our teeth. That’s the theory from scientists who say the ancient teeth of humans used to be a lot bigger, but shrunk during evolution.
Ancient Teeth Fossils
Teeth are the hominin (extinct humans and related species dating back to the split from the chimpanzee lineage) fossils most often found because they are the hardest parts of the human body. Scientists study these teeth because they are central to how a fossil ancestor lived. They can tell us about which species they belonged to, how they are related to other species, what they ate, and how quickly or slowly they developed during childhood.
Wisdom Teeth Were Extra Large
Scientists have particularly paid close attention to ancient wisdom. Today, our wisdom teeth are often very small or do not even develop. In ancient times, however, in many hominin species they were huge. In fact, chewing surfaces two to four times larger than those of their modern human counterparts.
Previous research suggested this shrinking in modern human wisdom teeth was due to the advent of cooking or other changes in diet unique to modern humans.
Evolution Downsizes Teeth
“In modern humans, tooth-size reduction has reached the point where wisdom teeth are increasingly failing to develop,” says Alistair Evans, an evolutionary biologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “The advent of cooking made food easier to eat, meaning we didn’t need big teeth as much.”
The findings of this discovery were presented in the journal Nature earlier this year.
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