Human Evolution

, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp 515–523 | Cite as

A critique of the «increasing population density effect»

  • K. R. Gibson
  • J. M. Calcagno
Article

Abstract

The «increasing population density effect» (IPDE) proposed by Macchiarelli and Bondioli (1986) represents one of the most recent attempts to account for dental reduction in modern human populations. Under the IPDE, the marked reduction in tooth size observed in post-Pleistocene human groups is seen as merely a side-effect of a more general reduction in body size, which resulted from an increase in population density. The model is dependent upon a strong correlation between tooth size and body size, which after numerous attempts has yet to be convincingly demonstrated in humans. This paper argues that the IPDE neglects the negative consequences on individual fitness of teeth which are too large to fit into diminishing jaws or are more susceptible to pathology, and that the worldwide reduction of tooth size is the result of selection for smaller teeth due to shifts to a softer and/or more cariogenic diet. Although increased population density may have intensified this selective effect by decreasing general fitness by lowering resistance to oral infections, it was not the primary cause of dental reduction. All proposed mechanisms of dental reduction, however, are in need of additional testing, and possible directions are offered for future studies of the phenomenon.

Key words

Dental Reduction Mechanisms Tooth Size/Body Size Natural Selection 

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Copyright information

© Editrice Il Sedicesimo 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. R. Gibson
    • 1
  • J. M. Calcagno
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnatomicalSciences University of Texas Dental BranchHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology/AnthropologyLoyola University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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