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J Hum Evol. 2004 Mar;46(3):255-77.

Does space in the jaw influence the timing of molar crown initiation? A model using baboons (Papio anubis) and great apes (Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus).

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Department of Oral Health Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia, 2199 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.


Radiographic and histological studies of baboon (Papio hamadryas, P. anubis) and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) permanent tooth development have found that periods of molar crown mineralization overlap markedly in chimpanzees but are staggered in baboons. Here we test the hypothesis that these intertaxon differences in molar initiation are primarily due to the space available in the mandibles of each species for these teeth. This study includes radiographic, linear measurement, and three-dimensional (3D) coordinate landmark data taken from baboon (Papio anubis n=51) and great ape (Pan paniscus n=43, P. troglodytes n=60) mandibles and permanent molars across a broad developmental range for each taxon. Unexpectedly, 3D multivariate statistical shape analysis of the molar crypt, crown, and root data shows that all three species trajectories of molar row shape change are indistinguishable from each other. Qualitative analysis of these 3D data reveals subtle and inconclusive intergeneric differences in the space maintained between adjacent molars during growth. The space distal to each newly initiated molar is slightly greater in the baboon. Bivariate analyses comparing molar row and mandibular corpus proportions in Papio and Pan fail to show clear or consistent taxonomic differences in the ratio of space afforded developing molars in the alveolar bone. Thus, there is a poor correlation between mandibular proportion and both intermolar spacing and 3D molar development pattern. Contrary to earlier studies, these results suggest that pattern of molar crown initiation and temporal overlap of adjacent mineralizing crowns is not significantly different between Papio and Pan. This may be due in part to the inclusion here of not only 3D molar crown data but also 3D molar crypt data. This study strongly refutes the hypothesis that space available in the mandible directly underlies different times of permanent molar crown initiation between Papio and Pan.

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