Get access

Variation in perikymata counts between repetitive episodes of linear enamel hypoplasia among orangutans from Sumatra and Borneo


  • Mark F. Skinner

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
    • Correspondence to: Mark Skinner, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, V5A 1S6. E-mail:

    Search for more papers by this author


The goal of this study is to evaluate whether repetitive linear enamel hypoplasia (rLEH) in apes is ecologically informative. LEH, which appears as grooves of thinner enamel often caused by malnutrition and/or disease, is a permanent record of departures from developmental homeostasis in infant and juvenile apes. Orangutans were selected for the study as they are a threatened species, have a remarkably high prevalence of rLEH, and because Sumatra is deemed a better habitat for orangutans than is Borneo, facilitating an ecological comparison. Objectives are to determine: a) whether periodicity of rLEH in orangutans corresponds to monsoon-mediated cycles in precipitation or food; and b) whether patterning of rLEH supports the view that Borneo is an inferior habitat. This study compares the counts of perikymata between adjacent LEH from 9 Sumatran and 26 Bornean orangutans to estimate the periodicity of rLEH. A total of 131 nonredundant inter-LEH perikymata counts were transformed to natural log values to reveal clusters of counts in a multiplicative series. Using a value of 10 days to form one perikyma, rLEH tends to recur semiannually in both populations. However, Sumatran orangutans show significantly fewer semiannual intervals and more annually recurring episodes. Bornean orangutans show mostly semiannual intervals and are more variable in inter-LEH perikymata counts. It is concluded that: a) developmental conditions for infant orangutans in Sumatra protect them somewhat from seasonal and environmental variation; b) temporal patterning of rLEH indicates that Borneo is the poorer habitat for orangutans; and c) the study of rLEH can be ecologically informative. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:125–139, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.