Ages of eruption of primate teeth: A compendium for aging individuals and comparing life histories



Sixty years ago, Adolph Schultz attempted to collect all available information on the ages at which primates erupt their teeth. His search recovered complete data for only two nonhuman primate species, both macaques (Schultz, 1935). Although dozens of studies of individual primate species have appeared since, many remain scattered in the primary literature. The present study takes another step towards the task that Schultz began by gathering together all data on ages of tooth eruption for every primate species that could be located, from published and unpublished sources. After adding new data, at least one datum on tooth eruption can be described for 46 species representing all primate families. Data for 36 species are presented in an extended format with recommendations to help standardize future data collection and reporting. The compendium makes it possible to describe, for the first time, the basic outline of the eruption of teeth of primates from birth to adulthood. A preliminary analysis finds: many primates are born with teeth already erupted and only great apes and humans typically remain toothless after a month of postnatal life. Eruption of the dentition is tightly integrated overall, but the first few teeth to erupt give unique information about species life history, probably reflecting infant precociality. Mean age of tooth eruption is strongly related to size, measured as mean adult body weight (r = 0.72–0.92) or mean adult brain weight (r = 0.82–0.97). Important gaps remain in our knowledge of great apes, gibbons, colobus monkeys, folivorous cebids, and lorises. For many species, day-of-birth records or brief longitudinal studies extending only weeks or months could provide extremely valuable life-history data. Over-all, eruption of teeth offers an excellent method to gauge both the maturation of individuals and to compare the life histories of species. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.