Rethinking incisor size and diet in anthropoids: diet, incisor wear and incisor breadth in the African apes.

Research paper by Melanie A MA McCollum

Indexed on: 25 Apr '07Published on: 25 Apr '07Published in: American Journal of Physical Anthropology


In a seminal study Hylander (1975) concluded that the length of the incisor row in catarrhines considered frugivores is longer relative to body mass than in those classified as folivores. Assuming that large fruits require greater incisal processing than do leaves, stems, berries, and seeds, he argued that the larger incisors of frugivores increased their resistance to wear. The present analysis examines diet, incisor wear, and incisor crown breadth in cranial samples of western lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. Incisor wear rate was assessed on the basis of the extent of incisor crown reduction observed at sequential stages of first molar wear. Incisor metrics were obtained from the unworn teeth of juveniles. Results suggest that incisor wear is greater in the more folivorous western lowland gorillas than in more frugivorous chimpanzees. Moreover, incisor crown dimensions do not differ appreciably among African apes. These findings fail to support the hypothesis that slower wear rates are associated with broader incisor crowns, and raise new questions regarding the significance of incisor row length in anthropoids.