In this report we provide data on dental eruption and tooth germ maturation at birth in a large sample constituting the broadest array of non-human primates studied to date. Over 100 perinatal primates, obtained from natural captive deaths, were screened for characteristics indicating premature birth, and were subsequently studied using a combination of histology and micro-CT. Results reveal one probable unifying characteristic of living primates: relatively advanced maturation of deciduous teeth and M1 at birth. Beyond this, there is great diversity in the status of tooth eruption and maturation (dental stage) in the newborn primate. Contrasting strategies in producing a masticatory battery are already apparent at birth in strepsirrhines and anthropoids. Results show that dental maturation and eruption schedules are potentially independently co-opted as different strategies for attaining feeding independence. The most common strategy in strepsirrhines is accelerating eruption and the maturation of the permanent dentition, including replacement teeth. Anthropoids, with only few exceptions, accelerate mineralization of the deciduous teeth, while delaying development of all permanent teeth except M1. These results also show that no living primate resembles the altricial tree shrew (Tupaia) in dental development. Our preliminary observations suggest that ecological explanations, such as diet, provide an explanation for certain morphological variations at birth. These results confirm previous work on perinatal indriids indicating that these and other primates telegraph their feeding adaptations well before masticatory anatomy is functional. Quantitative analyses are required to decipher specific dietary and other influences on dental size and maturation in the newborn primate.
Keywords: Tarsius; anthropoid; development; haplorhine; strepsirrhine; teeth.
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