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Keywords:

  • odontometry;
  • sexual differences;
  • tooth size;
  • crown morphology

Abstract

Few dental anthropological studies have investigated the associations between tooth crown size and crown traits in humans using quantitative methods. We tested several hypotheses about overall crown size, individual cusp areas, and expression of Carabelli cusps in human permanent first molars by obtaining data from standardized occlusal photographs of 308 Australians of European descent (171 males and 137 females). Specifically, we aimed to calculate the areas of the four main molar cusps, and also Carabelli cusp, and to compare the relative variability of cusp areas in relation to timing of development. We also aimed to compare cusp areas between males and females and to describe how Carabelli cusp interacted with other molar cusps. Measurements included maximum crown diameters (mesiodistal and buccolingual crown diameters), the areas of the four main cusps, and the area of Carabelli cusp. The pattern of relative variability in absolute areas of molar cusps corresponded with their order of formation, the first-forming paracone displaying the least variation, and the last-forming Carabelli cusp showing the greatest. Overall crown size and areas of individual cusps all showed sexual dimorphism, with values in males exceeding those in females. Sexual dimorphism was smallest for paracone area and greatest for Carabelli cusp area. Overall crown size and cusp areas were larger in individuals displaying a Carabelli cusp, especially the hypocone area. Although the combined area of the protocone and a Carabelli cusp was greater in cuspal forms than noncuspal forms, protocone area alone was significantly smaller in the former. Our findings lead us to propose that, in individuals with the genotype for Carabelli trait expression, larger molar crowns are more likely to display Carabelli cusps, whereas molars with smaller crowns are more likely to display reduced forms of expression of the trait. We suggest that the pattern of folding of the internal enamel epithelium in developing molar crowns, particularly in the protocone region, can be modified by a developing Carabelli cusp. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.