A structural biorhythm related to human sexual dimorphism

Patrick Mahoney*, Gina McFarlane, Rosie Pitfield, Mackie C. O'Hara, Justyna J. Miszkiewicz, Chris Deter, Hannah Seal, Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Life on earth is regulated by biological rhythms, some of which oscillate with a circadian, monthly or lunar cycle. Recent research suggests that there is a near weekly biorhythm that may exert an influence on human skeletal growth. Evidence for the timing of this biorhythm is retained in tooth enamel as the periodicity of Retzius lines. Studies report that Retzius periodicity (RP) relates to adult human stature and enamel thickness. Adult human stature is sexually dimorphic, and so is enamel thickness of maxillary third molars (M3) but not mandibular M3. Yet, previous studies report sex differences in RP are apparent in some populations but not others, and it is unknown if dimorphism in enamel thickness relates to RP. To further our understanding of this biorhythm we analysed sex-related variation in RP and its relationship with enamel thickness in a sample of M3′s (n = 94) from adults in Northern Britain. Results reveal RP was significantly higher in our sample of female molars compared to those of males, which is consistent with the previously reported correlation between the biorhythm and adult stature. The RP of maxillary M3 related to sex differences in enamel thickness, but this relationship was not present in mandibular M3. Our results support previous findings suggesting that this biorhythm is sexually dimorphic and provide the first evidence that RP may be one factor influencing sex differences in enamel thickness. Our study also shows that correlations between RP and enamel thickness appear to be most readily detected for tooth types with sufficiently wide ranges of enamel thickness variation, as is the case for maxillary but not mandibular M3. Achieving a sufficient sample size was critical for detecting a sex difference in periodicity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number107550
    JournalJournal of Structural Biology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


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