Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Paleoanthropology

pp 1465-1493


Dental Adaptations of African Apes

  • Mark F. TeafordAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Therapy, High Point University, School of Health Sciences Email author 
  • , Peter S. UngarAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Arkansas


Improvements in the primate fossil record, and in methods of data acquisition and analysis, have set the stage for new insights into the development, function, and evolution of hominoid teeth. This chapter is a brief review of recent advances. In essence, genetic analyses are changing our perspectives on the evolution of morphology, while improved studies of dental development and microstructure have yielded permanent markers of developmental history and microstructural differences of functional significance. More realistic perspectives on the physical properties of foods are yielding new functional interpretations of differences in tooth size. Finally, landmark-free analyses of tooth shape and wear are giving researchers the chance to actually monitor how teeth are used in living primates and by extrapolation in fossil primates too. Through techniques such as these will come a better understanding of the intricacies of dental function and a clearer picture of our past.