Tooth wear and feeding ecology in mountain gorillas from Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Jordi Galbany, Olive Imanizabayo, Alejandro Romero, Veronica Vecellio, Halszka Glowacka, Michael R. Cranfield, Timothy G. Bromage, Antoine Mudakikwa, Tara S. Stoinski, Shannon C. McFarlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Ecological factors have a dramatic effect on tooth wear in primates, although it remains unclear how individual age contributes to functional crown morphology. The aim of this study is to determine how age and individual diet are related to tooth wear in wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) from Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Material and Methods We calculated the percent of dentine exposure (PDE) for all permanent molars (M1-M3) of known-age mountain gorillas (N = 23), to test whether PDE varied with age using regression analysis. For each molar position, we also performed stepwise multiple linear regression to test the effects of age and percentage of time spent feeding on different food categories on PDE, for individuals subject to long-term observational studies by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International's Karisoke Research Center. Results PDE increased significantly with age for both sexes in all molars. Moreover, a significant effect of gritty plant root consumption on PDE was found among individuals. Our results support prior reports indicating reduced tooth wear in mountain gorillas compared to western gorillas, and compared to other known-aged samples of primate taxa from forest and savanna habitats. Discussion Our findings corroborate that mountain gorillas present very low molar wear, and support the hypothesis that age and the consumption of particular food types, namely roots, are significant determinants of tooth wear variation in mountain gorillas. Future research should characterize the mineral composition of the soil in the Virunga habitat, to test the hypothesis that the physical and abrasive properties of gritty foods such as roots influence intra- and interspecific patterns of tooth wear. Am J Phys Anthropol 159:457-465, 2016.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-465
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Gorilla beringei beringei
  • aging
  • dentine exposure
  • diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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