Enamel microstructure and molar wear in the greater galago, Otolemur crassicaudatus (mammalia, primates)



This study describes the molar enamel microstructure of the greater galago, based on SEM study of four individuals. Galago molar enamel consists primarily of radially oriented Pattern 1 prisms. However, the most superficial enamel is characterized by regions of poorly developed prisms or nonprismatic enamel, and Pattern 3 prisms can be found at depths intermediate and deep to the enamel surface. Orientations of prism long axes relative to wear surfaces differ among functionally distinct regions (cuspal facets, Phase I/II facets, and crushing basins). Consequently, orientations of enamel crystallites relative to these surfaces also differ. Because crystallites are the structural unit involved in enamel abrasion, these differences in orientation may have important effects on molar wear patterns. Crystallite orientations differ most between cuspal facets and Phase I/II facet surfaces. Cuspal facets are characterized by near surface-parallel interprismatic and surface-oblique prismatic crystallites. Previous experimental studies suggest that this arrangement is most resistant to wear when surface-normal (compressive) loads predominate. In contrast, prismatic and interprismatic crystallites intercept Phase I/II facet surfaces obliquely, an arrangement expected to resist abrasion when surface-parallel (shearing) loads predominate. Superficial enamel is preserved at most basin surfaces, indicating that these regions are subject to comparatively little abrasive wear.

These results support the hypothesis that galago occlusal enamel is organized so as to resist abrasion of different functional regions, a property that may prove important in maintaining functional efficiency. However, this largely reflects constraints of occlusal topography on a microstructure typical of many mammals and thus does not appear to represent a structural innovation. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.