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Plasticity and constraint in response to early-life stressors among late/final jomon period foragers from Japan: Evidence for life history trade-offs from incremental microstructures of enamel


  • Daniel H. Temple

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
    • Correspondence to: Daniel H. Temple, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Robinson Hall B, Room 305, George Mason University, MSN 3G5, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, USA. E-mail:

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  • This article was published online on 26 August 2014. An error was subsequently identified. This notice is included in the online and print versions to indicate that both have been corrected 5 Sep 2014.


This study evaluates two hypotheses that address how Late/Final Jomon period people responded to early-life stress using linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) and incremental microstructures of enamel. The first hypothesis predicts that Jomon people who experienced early-life stressors had greater physiological competence in responding to future stress events (predictive adaptive response). The second hypothesis predicts that Jomon people traded-off in future growth and maintenance when early investment in growth and survival was required (plasticity/constraint). High resolution tooth impressions were collected from intact, anterior teeth and studied under an engineer's measuring microscope. LEH were identified based on accentuated perikymata and depressions in the enamel surface profile. Age of formation for each LEH was estimated by summing counts of perikymata and constants associated with crown initiation and cuspal enamel formation times. The relationship between age-at-first-defect formation, number of LEH, periodicity between LEH, and mortality was evaluated using multiple regression and hazards analysis. A significant, positive relationship was found between age-at-death relative to age-at-first-defect formation and a significant, negative relationship was found between number of LEH relative to age-at-first-defect formation. Individuals with earlier forming defects were at a significantly greater risk of forming defects at later stages of development and dying at younger ages. These results suggest that Late/Final Jomon period foragers responded to early-life stressors in a manner consistent with the plasticity/constraint hypothesis of human life history. Late/Final Jomon period individuals were able to survive early-life stressors, but this investment weakened responses to future stress events and exacerbated mortality schedules. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:537–545, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.