Infant Fossil Teeth: Clues to Ancient Human Development

Lab recording December 13, 2013.

Tanya Smith, PhD,, Associate Professor, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University.
The Dental Tissue Lab

Your dentist knows a lot about your diet and your habits, just by examining your teeth. Evolutionary scientists value teeth too, but their interest lies in the potential of fossil teeth as biomarkers, a record of species development. Infant teeth are especially important because they provide a clear record of weaning patterns, and weaning patterns are important indicators of species development. Professor Tanya Smith's lab analyzes infant fossil teeth to reconstruct the weaning patterns of Neanderthal and early humans. In this video Science for the Public visits Dr. Smith's lab to learn what makes fossil teeth great evolutionary biomarkers. We examine some ancient teeth and record a demonstration of the advanced technology that makes an accurate analysis of ancient teeth possible. And Dr. Smith explains the significance of this type of research.

The Teeth Tell a Tale March 2015 Harvard Gazette

A Mouth Full of Clues June 2013 Harvard Gazette

Dr. Smith's presentation A Bite through Time on Fora.TV

Dr. Smith and synchrotron on BBC-2

more on the ESRF synchrotron

animation of the synchrotron, the special and very powerful x-ray used for analyzing fossil teeth

Watching Teeth Grow

Nature Education Resource on Teeth and Human Life History

Exploratorium Resource on Evidence