Dental Hard Tissue Lab

Histological Preparation and Analysis Facilities

Our team manages in-house laboratory facilities for the generation of high resolution molds and casts, histological thin sectioning of hard tissues, high resolution stereo microscopy and polarized light microscopy, and a high end Dell workstation running VG Studio MAX software for microCT/synchrotron 3D data analysis. High resolution tomographic imaging (microCT) is performed at the Translational Research Institute Australia. Synchrotron imaging is performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility through a collaboration with Dr. Paul Tafforeau. Oxygen isotope analysis is performed on the Sensitive High Resolution Ion Microprobe (SHRIMP) at The Australian National University through a collaboration with Professor Ian Williams. Trace element analysis is performed at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai through a collaboration with Professor Manish Arora and Dr. Christine Austin. Fluorescent light microscopy is available through the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery. More information on histological thin sectioning may be found here.

Dental Microstructure Studies

Dental development in humans and great apes begins prior to birth and continues throughout adolescence. Like many biological systems, hard tissue formation is characterized by a circadian rhythm. Developmental rate and time are permanently recorded by incremental lines in enamel and dentine, which remain unchanged in these tissues for millions of years. Given that dental remains are the most common, well-preserved type of fossil evidence for extinct species of primates, examination of incremental growth processes may shed new light on the evolutionary developmental biology of early humans.

Examination of hard tissue development from a histological perspective is a relatively new field of odontological inquiry. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies on incremental dental development in hominoids. Studies on Plio-Pleistocene hominids and Neanderthals have indicated that the relatively slow developmental rate and prolonged duration of modern human crown formation may be a fairly recent and unique development.

Histological analysis of dental material facilitates understanding of the final functional products of the processes of development and growth, which may be understood in terms of enamel thickness (macrostructure) and enamel microstructure. Recent studies have provided information on age at death in hominins with developing dentitions, absolute and relative timing of dental development, age at first emergence, and differences in the developmental pathways of enamel formation. These studies have important implications for our understanding of hominin evolution and the origin of developmentally modern humans.

CURRENT LAB MEMBERS

Dr. Janaína Ávila

Postdoctoral Research Associate (Australian National University PhD 2011)

Research interests: Secondary ion mass spectrometry, stable isotope geochemistry, sulfur and oxygen isotopic signatures of biological processes, environmental and biological evolutions on early Earth, isotope cosmochemistry.

Dr. Rebecca Kinaston

Postdoctoral Research Adjunct (University of Otago PhD 2010)

Research interests: Bioarchaeology, human and faunal palaeodiet and mobility, palaeopathology, oral health, growth disturbance, isotope analyses, human adaptation, excavation, repatriation.

Mehar (Maya) Bharatiya

HDR Student (Stony Brook University BS Human Evolutionary Biology & BA Anthropology 2021)

Research interests: Dental development, human evolution, life history, osteology, fossils, and morphology.

Georgia Rolls

Honours Student (University of Queensland BS Archaeological Science 2018)

Research interests: Dental development and structure, human evolution, diet reconstructions, and human agency, children, and individuals with disabilities in the archaeological record.

FORMER LAB MEMBERS

Dr. Katherine Carter

Doctoral Student (Harvard PhD 2016)

Research interests: Dental evolution and development, methods to quantify morphological variation, modularity and evolutionary plasticity.

Dr. Daniel Green

Doctoral Student (Harvard PhD 2017)

Research interests: Dental microstructure, isotopic chemistry, reconstruction of tooth growth and life history, human evolution in the Plio-Pleistocene.

Amanda Papakyrikos

Honors Student & Research Associate (Wellesley College BS 2014)

Research interests: Dental and skeletal development, life history reconstruction, and dental microstructure.

Dr. Anne Bonnin

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Research interests: X-ray microtomography, X-ray diffraction, dental microstructure, human evolution.

Jasmine Casart

Research Assistant

Research interests: Dental development and structure, three-dimensional tooth structures in early human development.

Dr. Alexandra Houssaye

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Research interests: Tooth virtual histology (for life history reconstruction), bone microanatomy and histology (for paleoecological studies), squamate evolution.

Dr. Akiko Kato

Visiting Scholar in the Dept. of Human Evolutionary Biology, Research Associate

Research interests: Dental development and structure, craniofacial growth and function in humans.

Dr. Adeline Le Cabec

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Research Interests: Dental virtual histology, anterior tooth root morphology and function in hominids, imaging techniques and dental anthropology.

Dr. Nancy Tang

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Lab Manager

Research Interests: Discovering what teeth can tell us about development, life history, and death using virtual histology and conventional laboratory techniques.

J.P. Zermeno

Honors Student & Research Associate (Harvard AB 2009)

Research Interests: Enamel macro- and microstructure, dental development.