Genotype, Phenotype, and Developmental Biology of Molar Tooth Characters

Jukka Jernvall, Han Sung Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Citations (Scopus)


Primate molar shapes reflect developmental and ecological processes. Development may constrain as well as facilitate evolution of new tooth shapes, affecting how reliable dental characters are in phylogenetic studies. Much of the genetic machinery of development uses the same genes among different organs, including teeth, limbs, and feathers. Furthermore, within a tooth, the development of individual cusps repeatedly uses the same set of developmental genes, forming a "developmental module." The repeated activation of the developmental module can explain the cumulative variation in later-developing cusps. Therefore short, later-developing cusps may be evolvable but also more homoplastic. This patterning cascade mode of cusp development can be used to explain the variational properties of dental characters and character states related to cusp initiation. The developmental basis and variational properties of crown termination, cusp shape, and cusp configuration characters are currently less well understood. It is unlikely that there is a simple "gene to phenotype" map for dental characters. Rather, the whole cusp pattern is a product of a dynamic developmental program manifested in the activation of the developmental modules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-190
Number of pages20
JournalYearbook of Physical Anthropology
Publication statusPublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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