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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2001 Mar;114(3):192-214.

Teeth, brains, and primate life histories.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 01003-4805, USA.


This paper explores the correlates of variation in dental development across the order Primates. We are particularly interested in how 1) dental precocity (percentage of total postcanine primary and secondary teeth that have erupted at selected absolute ages and life cycle stages) and 2) dental endowment at weaning (percentage of adult postcanine occlusal area that is present at weaning) are related to variation in body or brain size and diet in primates. We ask whether folivores have more accelerated dental schedules than do like-sized frugivores, and if so, to what extent this is part and parcel of a general pattern of acceleration of life histories in more folivorous taxa. What is the adaptive significance of variation in dental eruption schedules across the order Primates? We show that folivorous primate species tend to exhibit more rapid dental development (on an absolute scale) than comparably sized frugivores, and their dental development tends to be more advanced at weaning. Our data affirm an important role for brain (rather than body) size as a predictor of both absolute and relative dental development. Tests of alternative dietary hypotheses offer the strongest support for the foraging independence and food processing hypotheses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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