Patterns of heritability across the human diphyodont dental complex: Crown morphology of Australian twins and families

Kathleen S. Paul, Christopher M. Stojanowski, Toby E. Hughes, Alan H. Brook, Grant C. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study generates a series of narrow-sense heritability estimates for crown morphology of the deciduous and permanent dentition with two overarching aims. The first is to test the hypothesis that deciduous teeth provide a more faithful reflection of genetic information than their permanent successors. The second is to use quantitative genetic methods to evaluate assumptions underlying common data collection and analysis practices in biodistance research. Materials and Methods: Dental morphology data were collected from longitudinal dental casts representing Australian twins and families using Arizona State Dental Anthropology System standards. Polygenic models and estimates of narrow-sense heritability were generated using SOLAR v.8.1.1. Each model considered age, sex, and age/sex interaction as covariates. Results: Heritability estimates significantly differed from zero for the majority of morphological crown characters. Most estimates fell within the 0.4–0.8 range typically observed for crown morphology. Mean heritability was stable across the dental complex, but for paired homologues, permanent traits often yielded higher estimates than their deciduous counterparts. Results indicate directional asymmetry in environmental influence for crown morphology and inform biodistance “best practices” related to data collection and treatment. Conclusions: Overall, results for this sample support the use of crown morphology as a proxy for genetic variation in evolutionary research. This includes the deciduous dentition, which justifies the expansion of efforts to incorporate subadults into reconstructions of past microevolutionary processes. Results do not indicate that deciduous phenotypes more closely approximate underlying genotype, at least for deciduous/permanent homologues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-461
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • deciduous teeth
  • dental development
  • dental morphology
  • heritability
  • quantitative genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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