Dental topography of the Oligocene anthropoids Aegyptopithecus zeuxis and Apidium phiomense: Paleodietary insights from analysis of wear series.

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Fossil primate dietary inference is enhanced when ascertained through multiple, distinct proxies. Dental topography can be used to assess changes in occlusal morphology with macrowear, providing insight on tooth use and function across the lifespans of individuals. We measured convex Dirichlet normal energy-a dental topography metric reflecting occlusal sharpness of features such as cusps and crests-in macrowear series of the second mandibular molars of two African anthropoid taxa from ∼30 Ma (Aegyptopithecus zeuxis and Apidium phiomense). Wear was quantified via three proxies: occlusal dentine exposure, inverse relief index, and inverse occlusal relief. The same measurements were calculated on macrowear series of four extant platyrrhine taxa (Alouatta, Ateles, Plecturocebus, and Sapajus apella) to provide an analogical framework for dietary inference in the fossil taxa. We predicted that Ae. zeuxis and Ap. phiomense would show similar patterns in topographic change with wear to one another and to extant platyrrhine frugivores like Ateles and Plecturocebus. The fossil taxa have similar distributions of convex Dirichlet normal energy to one another, and high amounts of concave Dirichlet normal energy 'noise' in unworn molars-a pattern shared with extant hominids that may distort dietary interpretations. Inverse relief index was the most useful wear proxy for comparison among the taxa in this study which possess disparate enamel thicknesses. Contrary to expectations, Ae. zeuxis and Ap. phiomense both resemble S. apella in exhibiting an initial decline in convex Dirichlet normal energy followed by an increase at the latest stages of wear as measured by inverse relief index, lending support to previous suggestions that hard-object feeding played a role in their dietary ecology. Based on these results and previous analyses of molar shearing quotients, microwear, and enamel microstructure, we suggest that Ae. zeuxis had a pitheciine-like strategy of seed predation, whereas Ap. phiomense potentially consumed berry-like compound fruits with hard seeds.





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Morse, Paul E, James D Pampush and Richard F Kay (2023). Dental topography of the Oligocene anthropoids Aegyptopithecus zeuxis and Apidium phiomense: Paleodietary insights from analysis of wear series. Journal of human evolution, 180. p. 103387. 10.1016/j.jhevol.2023.103387 Retrieved from

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