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J Hum Evol. 2010 May;58(5):363-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Apr 22.

Dental development of the Taï Forest chimpanzees revisited.

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Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


Developmental studies consistently suggest that teeth are more buffered from the environment than other skeletal elements. The surprising finding of late tooth eruption in wild chimpanzees (Zihlman et al., 2004) warrants reassessment in a broader study of crown and root formation. Here we re-examine the skeletal collection of Taï Forest juvenile chimpanzees using radiography and physical examination. Several new individuals are included, along with genetic and histological assessments of questionable identities. Only half of the Taï juveniles employed by Zihlman et al. (2004) have age of death known with accuracy sufficient for precise comparisons with captive chimpanzees. One key individual in the former study, misidentified during field recovery as Xindra (age 8.3), is re-identified as Goshu (age 6.4). For crown formation we find that onset and duration greatly overlap captive chimpanzees, whereas root development may be more susceptible to acceleration in captive individuals. Kuykendall's (1996) equation relating captive tooth formation stage to age gives reasonable estimates of young wild subjects' true ages. Direct comparisons of tooth eruption ages are limited. A key 3.76 year-old individual likely possessed an emerging mandibular M1 at death (previously estimated from the maxillary molar as occurring at 4.1 years). Wild individuals appear to fall near the middle or latter half of captive eruption ranges. While minor developmental differences are apparent in some comparisons, our reanalysis does not show an "unambiguous pattern" of slower tooth formation in this wild environment. These data do not undermine recent developmental studies of the comparative life histories of fossil hominins.

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