12 - Dental microwear and diet in extant and extinct Theropithecus: preliminary analyses  pp. 331-350

Dental microwear and diet in extant and extinct <i>Theropithecus</i>: preliminary analyses

By Mark F. Teaford

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  • Recent work has shown that microscopic wear patterns on teeth can yield insights into diet and dental function in a variety of mammals. The purpose of this study was to see if (a) distinctive dental microwear patterns could be documented for museum samples of modern Theropithecus, and (b) similar patterns might be discernible on the teeth of fossil baboons from the Omo deposits in Ethiopia.
  • Epoxy casts were prepared from dental impressions as described by Rose (1983) and Teaford & Oyen (1989a). Scanning electron micrographs were taken of the second mandibular molars at a magnification of 500 times. Computations and analyses were the same as those described by Teaford & Robinson (1989).
  • Results indicate that there are significant differences in dental microwear between Theropithecus gelada and T. brumpti. There are also significant differences between T. brumpti and T. oswaldi, whereas the latter is generally more similar to T. gelada in terms of its dental microwear patterns.
  • The molars of T. gelada are characterized by the presence of enamel prism relief and relatively little microwear. Microwear features that are present tend to be fine scratches and occasional large pits. The molars of T. brumpti are characterized by the presence of more microwear and more pits than in either T. oswaldi or T. gelada. Theropithecus oswaldi differs from T. gelada in the higher percentage of pits and smaller size of the pits on its molars.
  • These data suggest that T. brumpti and T. oswaldi had different diets.
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