A Faithful Record of Stressful Life Events Recorded in the Dental Developmental Record of a Juvenile Gorilla

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Abstract

The pattern and rate of dental development are critical components of the life history of primates. Much recent research has focused on dental development in chimpanzees and other hominoids, but comparatively little is known about dental development in Gorilla. To date, dental chronologies for Gorilla are based on a sample of 1 and information about variations in the time and timing of crown initiation and completion is lacking. We provide data on dental development in 1 captive, juvenile, female, western lowland Gorilla gorilla gorilla of known age, sex, life events, and date of death (carefully documented as part of zoo records) that experienced various physical insults during her first year of life. The perfect natural experiment allowed us to test the association of the timing of accentuated stress lines in teeth with significant physiological and psychological events during ontogeny of this juvenile gorilla. We analyzed histological sections from 14 permanent teeth (maxillary and mandibular I1-M2) and assessed crown initiation (CI) and crown formation times (CFT) using short- and long-period incremental lines in both enamel and dentine; they are advanced for all teeth compared to previously published chronology. The data suggest a relatively accelerated pace of dental development in gorillas compared to chimpanzees and fit an emerging pattern of an accelerated life history schedule in gorillas. Data on the timing of major accentuated lines in the developing dentition are tightly associated with exact dates of surgical procedures and follow-up hospital visits as recorded on zoo medical records. Our data highlight the importance of captive individuals with well-documented medical records for studying life history.

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