Recent studies of dental development in Neandertals: Implications for Neandertal life histories


  • Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg

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    • Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on the use of teeth to understand life-history profiles, growth, growth disruptions, and biological relationships in primates and fossil hominins.


Did Neandertals share with modern humans their prolonged periods of growth and delayed ages of maturation? During the past five years, renewed interest in this question has produced dental studies with seemingly contradictory results. Some suggest fast dental growth,1, 2 while others appear to suggest a slower, modern-human dental growth pattern.3, 4 Although some apparent contradictions can be reconciled, there remain questions that can be resolved only with additional data and cross-validation of methods. Moreover, several difficulties are inherent in using dental development to gauge Neandertal life histories. Even with complete data on Neandertal dental development, questions are likely to remain about the meaning of those data with regard to understanding Neandertal life histories.