The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Mapping the great apes: application of non-metric traits in the deciduous teeth of Gorilla and Pan


Department of Anthropology, Macalester College

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In studies of human populations, non-metric traits in the adult dentition are frequently used to track movement and change. This study uses previously established non-metric traits in the deciduous dentition of the great apes in order to distinguish between non-human ape populations. Twenty-eight traits in the upper and lower deciduous molars are compared according to each individual's geographic location, as well as genus, species, and sub-species. Data were collected from 284 subadult specimens of Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, and Gorilla beringei graueri from museum context. Significant differences in trait frequencies occurred in patterns roughly coinciding with the currently understood genetic relatedness of the five ape groups. Mean measure of divergence analysis of the frequency data revealed that the two Pan troglodytes subspecies were least divergent and that Pan paniscus is more similar to P. t. schweinfurthii than to P. t. troglodytes. G. b. graueri was most similar to the other Gorilla group. This study demonstrates that deciduous dental traits appear to show reliable evidence of genetic relatedness that can be further tested. Lastly, the utility of deciduous non-metric traits in distinguishing between geographically isolated ape populations is evaluated in comparison to geographic studies of permanent non-metric dental traits in humans.

Financial support was provided by the Paul Anderson Interdisciplinary Summer Research Fund, the Kraus Anderson Scholars Summer Research Fund, and Macalester College.

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