Deeper or more ‘severe’ linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) defects are hypothesized to reflect more severe stress during development, but it is not yet clear how depth is influenced by intrinsic enamel growth patterns. Recent work documented inter- and intraspecific differences in LEH defect depth in extant great apes, with mountain gorillas having shallower defects than other taxa, and females having deeper defects than males. Here, we assess the correspondence of inter- and intraspecific defect depth and intrinsic aspects of enamel growth: enamel extension rates, outer enamel striae of Retzius angles, and linear enamel thickness. Thin sections of great ape canines (n = 40) from Gorilla beringei beringei, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, and Pongo spp. were analyzed. Enamel extension rates were calculated within deciles of enamel-dentine junction length. Linear enamel thickness and the angle of intersection between striae of Retzius and the outer enamel surface were measured in the imbricational enamel. Mountain gorillas have faster enamel extension rates and shallower striae angles than the other taxa examined. Mountain gorillas have thinner imbricational enamel than western lowland gorillas and orangutans, but not chimpanzees. In the combined-taxon sample, females exhibit larger striae angles and thicker imbricational enamel than males. Enamel extension rates are highly negatively correlated with striae angles and LEH defect depth. Enamel growth variation corresponds with documented inter- and intraspecific differences in LEH defect depth in great ape canines. Mountain gorillas have shallower striae angles and faster extension rates than other taxa, which might explain their shallow LEH defect morphology and the underestimation of their LEH prevalence in previous studies. These results suggest that stressors of similar magnitude and timing might produce defects of different depths in one species or sex vs. another, which has implications for interpretations of stress histories in hominins with variable enamel growth patterns.
- Dental development
- Linear enamel hypoplasia
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics