Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What shapes a bone? Diet and genetics dictate adult jaw shape

Date:
August 6, 2011
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Summary:
Researchers found that use over time and not just genetics informs the structure of jaw bones in human populations. The researchers say these findings may be used to predict the diet of an ancient population, even if little evidence exists in the fossil record. It can also make it easier for scientists to pinpoint the genetic relationship between fossils.

This is a radiograph of adult Arikara specimen.
Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that use over time and not just genetics informs the structure of jaw bones in human populations. The researchers say these findings may be used to predict the diet of an ancient population, even if little evidence exists in the fossil record. It can also make it easier for scientists to pinpoint the genetic relationship between fossils.

Related Articles


Their results were published online June 23 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

"Our research aimed to see how much of the mandible's -- or jaw bone's -- shape is plastic, a response to environmental influences, such as diet, and how much is genetic. We used archaeological jaw bones from two different regions to answer that question," explains Megan Holmes, graduate student at the Johns Hopkins Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution, and lead author of the paper. "Before we can make inferences about what the shape of a bone tells us, like what environment the individual lived in, who it's related to or what it ate, we have to understand what creates that shape. The idea that function influences the shape of jaw bones is great for the archeological record in terms of discovering the diet of a population, and it's also really useful for reconstructing the fossil record -- finding which fossils are related to which, and how."

The group chose to study the Arikara and Point Hope American Indian populations, since they were genetically isolated from other groups and ate different diets. They investigated bones from the regions dating back to the 1600s and 1700s, times for which the diets are known from other records. The Point Hope population in Alaska ate a "hard" diet that included tough dried meat. They also used their teeth for a variety of nonfood-related tasks, such as stripping leather. The Arikara, from the Dakota area of the United States, ate a softer diet, which consisted of farming supplemented with light hunting.

The researchers precisely measured jaw bones from 63 members of the Point Hope population and 42 individuals from the Arikara population using an X-ray gun as well as calipers, and they used those measurements to extrapolate the proportions of the entire jaw. "The jaw bones were similar in children before they were old enough to start chewing, but different in adulthood, which implies that this divergence is likely a functional result of their diet and the use of their jaw, rather than genetics," says Holmes.

The changes to the jaw bones were explained using a theory drawn from engineering, which directly relates the geometry of a bone to the stresses put on it during use. The team was able to investigate very specific parts of the jaw bones and relate them to specific dietary habits. In the Point Hope population, for example, they found round, wide jaw bones -- a result of having to exert more force to chew a harder diet. The Arikara, on the other hand, did not show this expansion, which they attributed to the lighter chewing requirement of a softer diet.

"Genetics creates a blueprint of the bone, but a lot of things influence the bone's construction," says Holmes. "Mechanical pressure from muscle stress and strain from day-to-day activities can remodel the bone's surface and internal structure. Knowing how much the shape of a mandible we find is related to diet and how much genetically connects it to fossils found elsewhere can really help us parse out the family tree."

This study was funded by the Johns Hopkins Center of Functional Anatomy and Evolution.

Christopher B. Ruff, Ph.D., also of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Center of Functional Anatomy and Evolution, was the faculty advisor and co-author of the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Megan A. Holmes, Christopher B. Ruff. Dietary effects on development of the human mandibular corpus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2011; 145 (4): 615 DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21554

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "What shapes a bone? Diet and genetics dictate adult jaw shape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110805135351.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. (2011, August 6). What shapes a bone? Diet and genetics dictate adult jaw shape. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110805135351.htm
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "What shapes a bone? Diet and genetics dictate adult jaw shape." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110805135351.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins