International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 762–777 | Cite as

Occlusion in an Adult Male Gorilla with a Supernumerary Maxillary Premolar



Supernumerary teeth, or teeth that develop in addition to the normal number of deciduous and permanent dentition, have been widely described in human and nonhuman primates. Most studies have focused on the morphology and on the etiology of supernumerary teeth, and little is known about their occlusal relationships with adjacent and antagonistic teeth, and their effects on individuals’ masticatory efficiency. We analyzed the occlusal wear pattern of an adult male Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) with a fully erupted extra maxillary right premolar. We used a virtual method, occlusal fingerprint analysis, to reconstruct the major mandibular occlusal pathways responsible for the creation of wear facets on the tooth crowns. This approach is based on analysis of facet parameters such as inclination, directions, and areas, all measured using high-resolution 3-D virtual models of dental crowns. The results show unusual wear patterns in the supernumerary premolar and on its antagonist contacts (lower P4 and M1) that cannot be associated with a normal masticatory behavior. Occlusal simulation and kinematic analyses reveal a high level of directional overlapping combined with the absence of common occlusal contacts. This indicates a case of malocclusion that must have caused discomfort in this gorilla when biting or chewing, and may represent the first evidence of bruxism (grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw) in wild great apes.


Bruxism Living primates Malocclusion Mastication Wear facets 



We thank the curators Paulina Jenkins and Eileen Westwig of the American Museum of Natural History (New York, New York) that gave us access to the nonhuman primate collection. We also thank Dr. Iva Nikolic for copyediting this manuscript, the editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments that improved the quality of this manuscript. This study was supported by the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University through the Strategic Grant Scheme 2016 (Grant SGS16-0344), and by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and is publication no. 90 of the DFG Research Unit 771, “Function and performance enhancement in the mammalian dentition – phylogenetic and ontogenetic impact on the masticatory apparatus”.

Supplementary material

10764_2016_9937_Fig5_ESM.jpg (30 kb)
Fig. S1

The mastication compass (von Koenigswald et al. 2007) visualizes the reconstructed occlusal trajectory of the right dental rows in the Gorilla individual (AMNH 214107), derived from the virtual simulation with OFA software. Solid arrow describes the incursive phase I movement from distobuccal until centric occlusion (circle center) and the excursive phase II, dashed arrow toward slightly mesiolingual. Phase I and phase II show parallel direction and rather flat pathways, expressed through the length of the arrows. (JPG 29 kb)

10764_2016_9937_MOESM1_ESM.mpg (5.6 mb)
Video 1 OFA software simulation of the individual’s power stroke tooth-to-tooth contacts showing the sequential antagonistic contacts in the right upper premolar–molar row. Color gradient from red to green presents actual and previous collisions in the occlusal stroke. (MPG 5694 kb)
10764_2016_9937_MOESM2_ESM.mpg (4.7 mb)
Video 2 OFA software simulation of the individual’s power stroke tooth-to-tooth contacts showing the sequential antagonistic contacts in the right lower premolar–molar row. Color gradient from red to green presents actual and previous collisions in the occlusal stroke. (MPG 4818 kb)
10764_2016_9937_MOESM3_ESM.mpg (1.6 mb)
Video 3 OFA software simulation of possible bruxism activity in the right premolar–molar row. (MPG 1618 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Developmental BiologyMonash UniversityMelboruneAustralia
  2. 2.Earth SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  3. 3.Senckenberg Research InstituteFrankfurt am MainGermany
  4. 4.Department of Paleobiology and Environment, Institute of Ecology, Evolution, and DiversityJohann Wolfgang Goethe UniversityFrankfurtGermany

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