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Prof Christopher Dean

Prof Chris Dean

Christopher Dean is currently Professor of Anatomy in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

His background is in dental surgery, human biology and in human and comparative anatomy. He has published extensively on topics related to his research and co-authored two textbooks An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy, with Leslie Aiello (1990), and Core Anatomy for Students with John Pegington (1995).


+44 (0) 20 7679 0462
(Int: 30462)


My principal research aim is to determine where, when and why modern humans evolved an extended ~20 year period of growth and development. To research this problem I have pioneered ways of studying incremental markings in fossil primate tooth tissues. Teeth are abundant in the fossil record and contain incremental markings that allow us to retrieve information about the rates of and direction of cell movement during tooth development. Some of the mechanisms of morphological change during human evolution have been described in this way and it has been possible to determine the timing of key events during the period of growth and development in certain fossil primates. This research theme drives an extensive international interdisciplinary research effort with collaborations that draw on clinical science, comparative anatomy and palaeontology.

Recent clinically related studies: A study of enamel growth trajectories in teeth from ovarian teratomas: The timing of linear enamel hypoplastic lesions on anterior tooth crown surfaces in modern populations: Tooth root growth during the supraosseous eruptive phase in children aged 4-7 years.

Recent comparative projects on Miocene fossil primates: Dental development in Anapithecus an extinct primate with a uniquely fast life history profile: Rates of enamel growth in the smallest extinct monkey (Victoriapithecus, ~5kg) and the largest extinct ape (Gigantopithecus ~300kg): Tooth root morphology and dietary adaptation in Gigantopithecus.

Recent comparative projects on Plio-Pleistocene fossil hominids: The life history profile of Homo erectus determined from rates of enamel growth: A histological analysis of Neanderthal enamel and dentine development in fossils from La Chaise-de-Vouthon, Charente, France.

Current ongoing collaborations include: Detecting a weaning signal in archaeological and fossil remains by tracking pre- to postnatal strontium:calcium ratios through enamel using laser ablation plasma mass spectrometry: Comparative studies on rates of odontoblast differentiation along growing tooth roots.


1975 BDS, University College London
1977 Diploma in Human Biology, University of Oxford
1983 PhD, University of London
1993 Diploma in General Dental Practice, Royal College of Surgeons, London
1985 Wellcome Trust Lecturer, UCL
1990 Lecturer, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, UCL
1991 Reader in Anatomy, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, UCL
1996 Professor of Anatomy, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology UCL

Selected Publications

  • Dean, M.C. (2010) Retrieving chronological age from dental remains of early fossil hominins to reconstruct human growth in the past. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society, London, Series B Biological Sciences 365 (1556); 3397-3410 [PDF]
  • Bromage, T.G. and Dean M.C. (1985) Re-evaluation of the age at death of immature fossil hominids. Nature, 317; 525-528.[PDF]
  • Beynon, A.D. and Dean M.C. (1988) Distinct dental development patterns in early fossil hominids. Nature, 335; 509-514. [PDF]
  • Dean, M.C., Beynon, A.D., Thackeray, J.F. and Macho, G. (1993) Histological reconstruction of dental development and age at death of a juvenile Paranthropus robustus specimen, SK 63, from Swartkrans, South Africa. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 91; 401-419.[PDF]
  • Beynon, A.D., Dean, M.C., Leakey, M.G., Reid, D.J. and Walker A. (1998). Comparative dental development and microstructure of Proconsul teeth from Rusinga Island, Kenya. Journal of Human Evolution, 35; 163-209. [PDF]
  • Dean, M.C. (2000) Progress in understanding hominoid dental development. Journal of Anatomy, 197; 77-101. [PDF]
  • Dean, C., Leakey, M.G., Reid, D., Schrenk, F., Schwartz, G.T., Stringer, C., Walker, A. (2001) Growth processes in teeth distinguish modern humans from Homo erectus and earlier hominins. Nature, 414; 628-631. [PDF] (See also Moggi-Cecchi, J. (2001) Questions of growth. Nature, 414; 595-597. [PDF]
  • Dean, M.C. (2006) Tooth microstructure tracks the pace of human life history evolution. Proceedings of The Royal Society series B. 273; 2799-2802. [PDF]
  • Macchiarelli, R., Bondioli, L., Debénath, A., Mazurier, A., Tournepiche, J-F, Birch, W., Dean, C. (2006) How Neanderthal molar teeth grew. Nature 444,748-751.[PDF]
  • Dean, C. (2007) Growing up slowly 160,000 years ago. Commentary. Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences USA, 104 (15); 6093-6094 [PDF]
  • Humphrey, L.T., Dean, M.C., Jeffries, T.E. and Penn, M. (2008) Unlocking evidence of early diet from tooth enamel. Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences USA, 105; 6834-6839.[PDF]


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