Primate enamel evinces long period biological timing and regulation of life history

Timothy G. Bromage, Russell T. Hogg, Rodrigo S. Lacruz, Chen Hou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The factor(s) regulating the combination of traits that define the overall life history matrix of mammalian species, comprising attributes such as brain and body weight, age at sexual maturity, lifespan and others, remains a complete mystery. The principal objectives of the present research are (1) to provide evidence for a key variable effecting life history integration and (2) to provide a model for how one would go about investigating the metabolic mechanisms responsible for this rhythm. We suggest here that a biological rhythm with a period greater than the circadian rhythm is responsible for observed variation in primate life history. Evidence for this rhythm derives from studies of tooth enamel formation. Enamel contains an enigmatic periodicity in its microstructure called the striae of Retzius, which develops at species specific intervals in units of whole days. We refer to this enamel rhythm as the repeat interval (RI). For primates, we identify statistically significant relationships between RI and all common life history traits. Importantly, RI also correlates with basal and specific metabolic rates. With the exception of estrous cyclicity, all relationships share a dependence upon body mass. This dependence on body mass informs us that some aspect of metabolism is responsible for periodic energy allocations at RI timescales, regulating cell proliferation rates and growth, thus controlling the pace, patterning, and co-variation of life history traits. Estrous cyclicity relates to the long period rhythm in a body mass-independent manner. The mass-dependency and -independency of life history relationships with RI periodicity align with hypothalamic-mediated neurosecretory anterior and posterior pituitary outputs. We term this period the Havers-Halberg Oscillation (HHO), in reference to Clopton Havers, a 17th Century hard tissue anatomist, and Franz Halberg, a long-time explorer of long-period rhythms. We propose a mathematical model that may help elucidate the underlying physiological mechanism responsible for the HHO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-144
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Jul 21 2012


  • Cell proliferation
  • Enamel striae of retzius
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary axis
  • Long period biological rhythm
  • Metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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