Heritability and Genetic Integration of Anterior Tooth Crown Variants in the South Carolina Gullah

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Objectives: This article presents estimates of narrow-sense heritability and bivariate genetic correlation for a series of morphological crown variants of the anterior dentition. These results provide insight into the value of dental phenotypes as evolutionary proxies, as well as the development of tooth crowns as integrated or modular structures. Materials and Methods: African American dental casts from the Menegaz-Bock collection were scored for a standard set of dental morphological variables using the Arizona State Dental Anthropology System. Estimates of narrow-sense heritability and genetic correlations were generated using SOLAR v. 8.1.1, controlling for the covariates of age, sex, and birth year. Analyses were run using ordinal/continuous scale variables that were then dichotomized at various breakpoints, consistent with standard practices in dental anthropology. Results: Heritability estimates were low to moderate for most traits, and lower in magnitude than those reported for odontometric data from the same study sample. Only winging, canine shoveling, and canine double shoveling returned narrow-sense heritabilities that did not differ significantly from zero. Genetic correlations were high among antimeres and metameres and low for different traits scored on the same tooth crown. These results affirm standard data cleaning practices in dental biodistance. Double shoveling was atypical in returning strong negative correlations with other traits, shoveling in particular. Conclusions: Additive genetic variation contributes to dental morphological variation, although the estimates are uniformly lower than those observed for odontometrics. Patterns of genetic correlation affirm most standard practices in dental biodistance. Patterns of negative pleiotropy involving lingual and labial crown features suggest a genetic architecture and developmental complex that differentially constrain morphological variation of distinct surfaces of the same tooth crown. These patterns warrant greater consideration and cross-population validation.