Modern humans differ from wild great apes in gestation length, weaning age, interbirth interval, sexual maturity, and longevity, but evolutionary anthropologists do not know when these distinctive life-history conditions evolved. Dental tissues contain faithful records of birth and incremental growth, and scholars suggest that molar eruption age, tooth wear, growth disturbances, tooth chemistry, and/or tooth calcification may provide insight into the evolution of human life history. However, recent comparative approaches and empirical evidence demonstrate that caution is warranted when inferring hominin weaning ages or interbirth intervals from first molar eruption, tooth wear, or growth disturbances. Fine-scaled studies of tooth chemistry provide direct evidence of weaning. Early hominin tooth calcification is more ape-like than human-like, and fully modern patterns appear only after Neanderthals and diverged, concurrent with changes in cranial and postcranial development. Additional studies are needed to relate these novel calcification patterns to specific changes in life-history variables.


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