• Primate teeth;
  • Enamel thickness;
  • Enamel area;
  • Tooth wear


Recent evolutionary interpretations of Hominoidea have postulated functional relationships between tooth form, diet and masticatory biomechanics. A major consideration is the durability of the tooth under certain dietary conditions. Teeth with low cusps and thicker enamel are able to withstand heavy mastication of abrasive food bolus for a longer period. When comparisons are made between species of higher primates the variables of tooth size, cusp morphology, and enamel thickness appear to be related but until now no systematic analysis has been made to determine the functional relevance of several dental dimensions.

This study provides data gained from comparisons of dentition of nine species of primates. Histological sections were made of the post canine teeth and 21 dimensions were compared. The relevant dimensions identified serve to withstand dental wear. The distribution of thicker enamel corresponded to the observed wear planes.

Humans had thicker enamel than pongids while the macaque had the thinnest. These preliminary results tend to support theories which explain low, thick, enameled cusps in hominids.