Allometric scaling in the dentition of primates and prediction of body weight from tooth size in fossils.

Research paper by P D PD Gingerich, B H BH Smith, K K Rosenberg

Indexed on: 01 May '82Published on: 01 May '82Published in: American Journal of Physical Anthropology


Tooth size varies exponentially with body weight in primates. Logarithmic transformation of tooth crown area and body weight yields a linear model of slope 0.67 as an isometric (geometric) baseline for study of dental allometry. This model is compared with that predicted by metabolic scaling (slope = 0.75). Tarsius and other insectivores have larger teeth for their body size than generalized primates do and they are not included in this analysis. Among generalized primates, tooth size is highly correlated with body size. Correlations of upper and lower cheek teeth with body size range from 0.90-0.97, depending on tooth position. Central cheek teeth (P44 and M11) have allometric coefficients ranging from 0.57-0.65, falling well below geometric scaling. Anterior and posterior cheek teeth scale at or above metabolic scaling. Considered individually or as a group, upper cheek teeth scale allometrically with lower coefficients than corresponding lower cheek teeth; the reverse is true for incisors. The sum of crown areas for all upper cheek teeth scales significantly below geometric scaling, while the sum of crown areas for all lower cheek teeth approximates geometric scaling. Tooth size can be used to predict the body weight of generalized fossil primates. This is illustrated for Aegyptopithecus and other Eocene, Oligocene, and miocene primates. Regressions based on tooth size in generalized primates yield reasonable estimates of body weight, but much remains to be learned about tooth size and body size scaling in more restricted systematic groups and dietary guilds.