BEACON TRANSCRIPT – When examining the past of humanity, as species, we sometimes inclined to overlook an aspect that could potentially provide more insight that a myriad of moldy bones. Quite recently, a team of paleontologists and medical examiners have discovered why the wisdom teeth of the modern man are much smaller than those of our ancestors. According to their theory, inhibitory cascade explains wisdom teeth.
For a long period of time, many paleontologists have tried to explain why the wisdom teeth of hominins, one of our ancestors, were so big in comparison with the wisdom teeth of a modern man. Evidently, this mystery gave birth to various theories, each of them keen on explaining this evolutionary gap.
Before this study was published, the scientists assumed that this reduction in size could be attributed to a change of diet or could have been prompted by the discovery of cooked meals. All theories had points of interests, but it would seem that a team from the Monash University managed to come up with a far simpler theory that can account for this morphological shift.
Doctor Alistair Evans, the senior researcher of the study, declared that a single tooth can tell us more about our past than thousands of dusty scrolls. Evidently his statement was backed up by a theory which, surprisingly enough, accounts for these changes.
According to Evans’s theory, there wasn’t any magic or intricate revolutionary mechanism involved in this process. As they’ve described it in the paper, this mechanism which shrinks teeth in size in something much basic than an evolutionary or a cultural trait.
The scientists conducting the experiment declared that this event can be easily explained with a concept called sinhibitory cascade.
Inhibitory cascade means that molars, like wisdom teeth, are basically coerced to take the shape and size of the adjacent tooth. In simpler terms, the wisdom tooth looks that way because it was forced by a developmental mechanism to conform to the size of the tooth located right next to it.
Before arriving at this ground-breaking conclusion, the scientists had to analyze dozens of hominin skull fragments from different regions of the globe. With the help of 3D modeling, they’ve finally managed to crack open this mystery.
From what we’ve gathered so far, it would seem that the hominins’ wisdom teeth were 4 times bigger that those of a modern man. Previous theories could not account for this shift, much of them relying on dietary habits or cultural shifts.
But this new theory proves that the inhibitory cascade explains wisdom teeth. Moreover, based on their analysis of the teeth fossils, the scientists discovered that the hominin teeth can be separated into two major categories: the genus homo, which was related to Neanderthal and the australopith.