Complex Systems in Human Development: Sexual Dimorphism in Teeth and Fingerprints of Australian Twins

Complex Systems in Human Development: Sexual Dimorphism in Teeth and Fingerprints of Australian Twins

R.J.O. Taduran S. Ranjitkar T. Hughes G. Townsend A.H. Brook 

Craniofacial Biology Research Group, School of Dentistry, University of Adelaide, Australia

School of Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, UK

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Human teeth and fingerprints have similar embryological origin from epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. This study aims to determine the nature and extent of sexual dimorphism in fingerprints and teeth of twins; investigate the influences of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors on observed variation; identify possible developmental associations between the phenotypes; and explore whether both systems display the features of complex adaptive systems. Mesiodistal (MD) measurements from both primary and permanent teeth and ridge density (RD) from three different finger areas, namely ulnar (U), radial (R), and proximal (P), from fingerprints of the same set of monozygotic and dizygotic Australian twins (28 males and 31 females aged 8 to 10 years, and aged 13 to 16 years, respectively) were collected and analysed. Sexual dimorphism was observed in both the primary and permanent dentitions, with the latter showing greater magnitude of differences than the former. There was no observed sexual dimorphism in the fingerprints of the 8 to 10 year cohort, but a few finger areas (left index U, right index R, left little R, and left little P) of the 13- to 16-year cohort exhibited significant differences, showing that friction ridges expand over time. It was concluded that both dentition and dermatoglyphics display characteristics of complex adaptive systems.


complex adaptive system, dentition, tooth size, dermatoglyphics, fingerprints, human development, mesiodistal, ridge density, sexual dimorphism


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