The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019)

Frequency of enamel chipping in Tai Forest cercopithecids: Implications for dietary reconstruction in paleoanthropological contexts


1Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Anthropology, University of Florida, 3Biology, Saint Michael's College

March 28, 2019 , CC Ballroom BC Add to calendar

Tooth enamel records evidence of dietary behavior in numerous ways, one of which is edge chipping. Prior research has shown that hard-object foods such as seeds and nuts are capable of chipping and/or fracturing enamel. The presence of chipped enamel has been used as evidence of hard-object feeding in paleoanthropological contexts; however, few studies have evaluated whether chip frequency and size reliably track durophagy in groups of extant taxa with different diets living sympatrically. We examined dental chipping and diet within the cercopithecid community inhabiting the Ivory Coast’s Tai Forest, testing the null hypothesis of no relationship between chipping and dietary hardness. We quantified chip frequency and size on 1105 P4s and M1s from naturally deceased specimens of Piliocolobus badius, Colobus polykomos, Procolobus verus, Cercocebus atys, and Cercopithecus spp. Based on degree of durophagy, we predicted that chip size and frequency would be greatest in Cercocebus atys and least in Procolobus verus. C. atys, a hard-object feeder that forages primarily on the forest floor, exhibited the most and largest chips; however, there was no obvious relationship between diet and chip frequency or size in the remaining taxa. There was a strong association between the frequency of enamel chips (of all sizes) and canopy use, suggesting that exogenous grit may play a role in chip formation. We conclude that food material properties and feeding context must be considered when interpreting dental chipping in fossil taxa.