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Tooth cusp sharpness as a dietary correlate in great apes

Authors

  • Michael A. Berthaume

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
    2. Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
    3. Medical and Biological Engineering Research Group, School of Engineering, University of Hull, UK
    • Correspondence to: Michael A. Berthaume, Medical and Biological Engineering Research Group, School of Engineering, University of Hull, UK. E-mail: M.Berthaume@hull.ac.uk

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ABSTRACT

Mammalian molars have undergone heavy scrutiny to determine correlates between morphology and diet. Here, the relationship between one aspect of occlusal morphology, tooth cusp radius of curvature (RoC), and two broad dietary categories, folivory and frugivory, is analyzed in apes. The author hypothesizes that there is a relationship between tooth cusp RoC and diet, and that folivores have sharper teeth than frugivores, and further test the correlation between tooth cusp RoC and tooth cusp size. Eight measures of tooth cusp RoC (two RoCs per cusp) were taken from 53 M2s from four species and subspecies of frugivorous apes (Pongo pygmaeus, Pan troglodytes troglodytes, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, and Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and two subspecies of folivorous apes (Gorilla beringei beringei, and Gorilla beringei graueri). Phylogenetically corrected ANOVAs were run on the full dataset and several subsets of the full dataset, revealing that, when buccolingual RoCs are taken into account, tooth cusp RoCs can successfully differentiate folivores and frugivores. PCAs revealed that folivores consistently had duller teeth than frugivores. In addition, a weak, statistically significant positive correlation exists between tooth cusp size and tooth cusp RoC. The author hypothesizes differences in tooth cusp RoC are correlated with wear rates, where, per vertical unit of wear, duller cusps will have a longer length of exposed enamel ridge than sharper cusps. More data need to be gathered to determine if the correlation between tooth cusp RoC and tooth cusp size holds true when small primates are considered. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:226–235, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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