an imaginative look a palaeolithic life

Sapiens sapiens teeth

Homo sapiens sapiens suffering from crippling jaw pain

Homo sapiens sapiens suffering from crippling jaw pain

I am in a lot of pain because of wisdom teeth.  On the one hand, pain isn’t generally a good thing, on the other hand, at least it proves that I’m a Homo sapiens sapiens.

Throughout human evolution, jaws have been getting smaller.  This point was emphasised repeatedly when I was studying this at university.  Australopithecines (the ones in the human lineage anyway) had smaller jaws than chimpanzees.  Humans had smaller jaws than Australopithecines.  Homo sapiens has smaller jaws than Homo erectus, etc etc ad nauseum, well at least ad chronic jaw pain due to Homo sapiens sapiens having jaws that have evolved so small that human teeth no longer fit in them!!

I mean HOW??  How did such a monumental evolutionary flamingo up even happen?  (It’s like a cock up, but much bigger and more spectacular.)  You’d think natural selection would have taken care of that, wouldn’t you?  I mean such severe jaw pain that you can barely eat ought to result in evolutionary failure, oughtn’t it?  And if natural selection couldn’t be bothered about it, why couldn’t neanderthal admixture  fix it?  Of all the neanderthal genes that could have benefited the Homo sapiens sapiens population, surely one for a little bit of extra space in the jaw behind the wisdom teeth would have been a good one to have, wouldn’t you think?  But no.  Jaw too small for the teeth to fit in it clearly is.  What gargantuan evolutionary advantage does a very small jaw have that it should end up being selected for in spite of crippling jaw pain from ingrowing wisdom teeth?

And isn’t the fact that those teeth are called wisdom teeth in the first place totally ironic?  Homo sapiens sapiens, the species that thinks its wise but clearly isn’t (clever, ingenious, innovative, yes.  wise?  pfft!) is also the species that has the most difficulty growing wisdom teeth.  I doubt any other species of human even had a special word for wisdom teeth, because they just grew and that was that.  But wise, wise man ends up with a deficit of both wisdom and wisdom teeth.  So if your wisdom teeth are giving you grief, just know that there must be some really, truly important evolutionary reason why.  I just can’t tell you what it is.

Image courtesy of artur84 /


2 responses

  1. I must be more evolved. As I never got wisdom teeth 🙂

    April 19, 2013 at 16:15

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