Seagull

The Big Beak Theory - the evolution of the human face could be surprising

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 14:08 GMT Jump to Comments

One day human beings may evolve a beak, says the University of Sheffield in a report entitled “The Beak Shall Inherit the Earth”.

Scientists have argued that the current structure of human teeth is “no longer fit for purpose”. With our modern diets and growing elderly population, a limited amount of teeth is hampering us as a species.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been exploring theories as to how evolution might resolve this problem.

One way human beings might be able to avoid the dentist is to develop beaks. Scientists have been examining the jaws of the pufferfish, which has evolved over millions of years to form a beak. Pufferfish use these to break open the shells of molluscs and crabs.

Beaks are more “robust and practical”, according to Dr Gareth Fraser, who led the research from the University of Sheffield.

Another theory states that, in the future, human beings will develop the ability to endlessly replace their teeth, to have an unlimited supply, not unlike sharks.

Shark’s teeth continuously shed and regrow throughout the shark's lifespan. Their teeth are embedded in the gum but not affixed to the jaw bone, and operate on a conveyer belt–like system, maturing in the back of the mouth and slowly moving towards the front as other teeth are shed.

The cells that allow new teeth to be developed and grown are called the putative stem cells, nicknamed “Tooth Fairy” cells by the scientists that study them. It is thought that future generations may generate these tooth fairy cells, enabling them to replace their own teeth.

“Our research is focused on looking for ways in which we can replicate the way that fish create an endless supply of teeth and bring this capability to humans,” Dr Fraser said.

Dr. Fraser admitted that this transformation isn’t going to happen any time soon, but scientists are working to learn more about tooth fairy cells and the evolution of beaks. Until then, dentists will still get plenty of teeth to pull.

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