• Gullah;
  • dentition;
  • teeth;
  • asymmetry;
  • developmental stability


In this investigation, deciduous teeth (canines, c; first molars, m1; second molars, m2) and their permanent successors (canines, C; first premolars, P1; second premolars, P2) were used to test two related hypotheses about fluctuating asymmetry (FA). First, based on the biology of the developing dentition, it was predicted that deciduous teeth would be more developmentally stable and thus exhibit less dimensional FA than their permanent successors. Second, based on sex differences in tooth development, it was predicted that female canines would have greater developmental stability (less FA) than male canines. Bucco-lingual measurements were made on dental casts from a single Gullah population. Using a repeated-measures study design (n = 3 repeated measures), we tested these hypotheses on sample sizes ranging from 63–82 antimeric pairs. Neither hypothesis was supported by our data. In most cases, Gullah deciduous teeth did not exhibit statistically significantly less FA than their permanent successors; indeed, statistically significant differences were found for only 3 of 12 deciduous vs. permanent contrasts, and in two cases, the deciduous tooth had greater FA. Female mandibular canines exhibited statistically significantly greater FA than those of males, while there was no statistically significant sex difference in FA for the maxillary canine. FA in these Gullah samples is high when compared to Archaic and late prehistoric Ohio Valley Native Americans, consistent with historical and archaeological evidence that environmental stress was relatively higher in the Gullah population. We suggest that when environmental stress in a population is high, the impact of differences in tooth formation time spans and developmental buffering upon FA may be minor relative to the effect of developmental noise. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006 © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.