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Keywords:

  • dental defect;
  • enamel hypoplasia;
  • developmental stress;
  • great apes

Abstract

Most studies report a high prevalence of linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) in the great apes relative to other nonhuman primates and some human populations. It is unclear if this difference is a direct result of poor health status for the great apes, or if it represents differential incidence due to a lower threshold (sensu Goodman and Rose, 1990 Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. [suppl.] 33:59–110) for the occurrence of enamel hypoplasia among great apes. This study uses the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's great ape collection to examine the prevalence of LEH, the most common type of hypoplasia observed. Frequencies of LEH are reported, as well as analyses by taxa and provenience. The study sample consists of 136 specimens and includes 41 gorillas, 25 chimpanzees, and 70 orangutans. Analyses of frequencies are presented for both individuals and teeth by taxonomic category and locality. Among the individuals in this study, 63.97% are affected by LEH. Overall, gorillas (29.27%) exhibit lower frequencies of LEH than chimpanzees (68.00%) and orangutans (82.86%). There is a marked difference in LEH frequencies between mountain and lowland gorillas. There is no difference in LEH frequencies between Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. A range of variation for the great apes in enamel hypoplasia frequencies is found when taxon and locality are considered. It is likely that both biological and environmental factors influence the high frequencies of enamel hypoplasia exhibited in the great apes. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.