Dental development in Megaladapis edwardsi (Primates, Lemuriformes): Implications for understanding life history variation in subfossil lemurs

Gary Schwartz, Patrick Mahoney, Laurie R. Godfrey, Frank P. Cuozzo, William L. Jungers, Gisèle F N Randria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

Teeth grow incrementally and preserve within them a record of that incremental growth in the form of microscopic growth lines. Studying dental development in extinct and extant primates, and its relationship to adult brain and body size as well as other life history and ecological parameters (e.g., diet, somatic growth rates, gestation length, age at weaning), holds the potential to yield unparalleled insights into the life history profiles of fossil primates. Here, we address the absolute pace of dental development in Megaladapis edwardsi, a giant extinct lemur of Madagascar. By examining the microstructure of the first and developing second molars in a juvenile individual, we establish a chronology of molar crown development for this specimen (M1 CFT = 1.04 years; M2 CFT = 1.42 years) and determine its age at death (1.39 years). Microstructural data on prenatal M1 crown formation time allow us to calculate a minimum gestation length of 0.54 years for this species. Postnatal crown and root formation data allow us to estimate its age at M1 emergence (∼0.9 years) and to establish a minimum age for M2 emergence (>1.39 years). Finally, using reconstructions or estimates (drawn elsewhere) of adult body mass, brain size, and diet in Megaladapis, as well as the eruption sequence of its permanent teeth, we explore the efficacy of these variables in predicting the absolute pace of dental development in this fossil species. We test competing explanations of variation in crown formation timing across the order Primates. Brain size is the best single predictor of crown formation time in primates, but other variables help to explain the variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-721
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of human evolution
Volume49
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2005

Keywords

  • Body size
  • Brain size
  • Dental development
  • Eruption schedules
  • Incremental lines
  • Life history
  • Madagascar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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