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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008 Jan;135(1):85-91.

Molar enamel thickness and dentine horn height in Gigantopithecus blacki.

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Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.


Absolutely thick molar enamel is consistent with large body size estimates and dietary inferences about Gigantopithecus blacki, which focus on tough or fibrous vegetation. In this study, 10 G. blacki molars demonstrating various stages of attrition were imaged using high-resolution microtomography. Three-dimensional average enamel thickness and relative enamel thickness measurements were recorded on the least worn molars within the sample (n = 2). Seven molars were also virtually sectioned through the mesial cusps and two-dimensional enamel thickness and dentine horn height measurements were recorded. Gigantopithecus has the thickest enamel of any fossil or extant primate in terms of absolute thickness. Relative (size-scaled) measures of enamel thickness, however, support a thick characterization (i.e., not "hyper-thick"); G. blacki relative enamel thickness overlaps slightly with Pongo and completely with Homo. Gigantopithecus blacki dentine horns are relatively short, similar to (but shorter than) those of Pongo, which in turn are shorter than those of humans and African apes. Gigantopithecus blacki molar enamel (and to a lesser extent, that of Pongo pygmaeus) is distributed relatively evenly across the occlusal surface compared with the more complex distribution of enamel thickness in Homo sapiens. The combination of evenly distributed occlusal enamel and relatively short dentine horns in G. blacki results in a flat and low-cusped occlusal surface suitable to grinding tough or fibrous food objects. This suite of molar morphologies is also found to varying degrees in Pongo and Sivapithecus, but not in African apes and humans, and may be diagnostic of subfamily Ponginae.

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