The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Is this yaws? Possible treponemal induced cranial vault lesions in a young chimpanzee


1Department of Anthropology, Macalester College, 2Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of North Texas Health Science Center

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A considerable amount of research in both living and past human populations has been conducted with respect to skeletal responses to treponematoses. Those affecting humans are usually classified as Pinta (Treponema carateum), Yaws (T. pallidum pertenue), or Syphilis (T. pallidum pallidum, both venereal and congenital, and T. pallidum endemicum for endemic). However, very little work has been undertaken among the great apes to identify the presence of these diseases and the processes that they might follow if present. We present a case study of a young, wild-shot, female chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) from Cameroon, housed at the Powell-Cotton Museum (Birchington, UK) that is likely affected by a treponematosis. Macroscopic examination revealed healed and healing lesions of the cranial vault, significant enamel defects in the permanent dentition, maxillary asymmetry, and mild periostitis in several postcranial elements. The cranial and dental anomalies observed are most consistent with yaws in humans, albeit with some key differences.

Funding provided by the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, UNTHSC and the Wallace Travel and Research Grants, Macalester College.

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