Genetic influences on dental variation
This research line focuses in three aims: we rely on quantitative genetic analyses, GWAS, and developmental genetics, to develop new methods that characterize dental variation in accordance with the underlying genetic influences; we apply these new methods to the fossil record to explore how the underlying mechanisms have evolved through time; and we use the evolution of the dental variation to interpret the evolution of the non-dental traits that are related through shared genetic effects.
Over the last 30 years, biologists have gained incredible insight into tooth formation. Non-pathological dental variation within primates can now be parcelled into traits that reflect two known genetic influences: those that are influenced by variation in the activity of the ectodysplasin pathway (primary qualitative traits) and those that are influence by genetic modularity within the tooth row (primary quantitative traits). These two genetic mechanisms also influence non-dental anatomical variation, such as variation in hair texture and mammary glands.