Home | Events |

Evolutionary Anthropology Colloquium: Dr. Gary T. Schwartz "Tales from the Crypt: Dental Development and the Evolution of Human Life History"

May 13, 2013
from 04:10 PM to 05:00 PM

2203 SS&H (Andrews Conference Room)

Dr. Gary T. Schwartz

Associate Professor, Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University


Tales from the Crypt: Dental Development and the Evolution of Human Life History


For over a century, paleoanthropologists have listed the presence of prolonged periods of gestation, growth, and maturation, coupled with extremely short interbirth intervals and early weaning among the key features of life history that distinguish modern Homo sapiens from our extant ape cousins. These facets of modern human biology, in conjunction with our reliance on complex cumulative culture, cooperation, and language, have resulted in our species being described as “a spectacular evolutionary anomaly.” Exactly when this anomalous “life history profile” came to characterize our species is not entirely clear. Researchers have suggested that it appeared either at the base of the hominin radiation (ca. 6 Ma), with the origins of the genus Homo (ca. 2.5 Ma), or much later in time, perhaps only with the appearance of modern H. sapiens (ca. 200–100 Ka). In this presentation, I review evidence of the pace of growth and maturation in the various fossil hominin groups (australopiths, early and later members of Homo) to evaluate the merits of each of these scenarios. New data on the relationships among dental development, diet, ecology, neural biology, and life history in extant primates—from lemurs to gorillas, and even across non-primate mammals—will be presented within the context of general life history theory. Future directions, including new analytical tools and integrative biomechanical and developmental models of facial and dental growth, will be highlighted as they enhance our ability to accurately reconstruct life history from the fossil record.