Original Research Article
Tooth Wear Inclination in Great Ape MolarsKnight-Sadler J.a · Fiorenza L.a, b
aDepartment of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, and bEarth Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
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Article / Publication Details
Primate dietary diversity is reflected in their dental morphology, with differences in size and shape of teeth. In particular, the tooth wear angle can provide insight into a species' ability to break down certain foods. To examine dietary and masticatory information, digitized polygon models of dental casts provide a basis for quantitative analysis of wear associated with tooth attrition. In this study, we analyze and compare the wear patterns of Pongo pygmaeus, Gorilla gorillagorilla and Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii lower molars, focusing on the degree of inclination of specific wear facets. The variation in wear angles appears to be indicative of jaw movements and the specific stresses imposed on food during mastication, reflecting thus the ecology of these species. Orangutans exhibit flatter wear angles, more typical of a diet consisting of hard and brittle foods, while gorillas show a wear pattern with a high degree of inclination, reflecting thus their more leafy diet. Chimpanzees, on the other hand, show intermediate inclinations, a pattern that could be related to their highly variable diet. This method is demonstrated to be a powerful tool for better understanding the relationship between food, mastication and tooth wear processes in living primates, and can be potentially used to reconstruct the diet of fossil species.
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