RARE GENETIC TOOTH DISEASE IN ANCIENT HUMAN RELATIVE

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Only about 1000 people in the world are estimated to suffer from a genetic tooth disorder, amelogenesis imperfecta, but palaeoanthropologists have found evidence for the disease in a 1.8 million-year-old hominin.

Uniform circular pitting enamel hypoplasia on four P. robustus teeth. Top left: SK 61; top right: SK 63; bottom left: SK 64; bottom right: SK 90

Amelogenesis imperfecta is a rare genetic disorder that causes teeth to have pits all over their surface, a little bit like the surface of golf balls. Palaeoanthropologists Dr Ian Towle and Prof Joel Irish discovered the disease affected Paranthropus robustus more than any other hominin species living in South Africa around that time. Paranthropus robustus had evolved thick enamel that would help it with eating a diet of tough and hard foods such as sedges, grasses, nuts and tubers. The gene that helped it develop this thick enamel, may have been responsible for the more frequent presence of the uniform circular pits typical of amelogenesis imperfecta. Read the original study in the Journal of Human Evolution

DigiArt Project is funded by the European Commision under grant number 665066

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