Occlusal relief changes with molar wear in Pan troglodytes troglodytes and Gorilla gorilla gorilla.
ABSTRACT Most research on primate tooth form-function relationships has focused on unworn teeth. This study presents a morphological comparison of variably worn lower second molars (M(2)s) of lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla; n=47) and common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes; n=54) using dental topographic analysis. High-resolution replicas of occlusal surfaces were prepared and scanned in 3D by laser scanning. The resulting elevation data were used to create a geographic information system (GIS) for each tooth. Occlusal relief, defined as the ratio of 3D surface area to 2D planometric area of the occlusal table, was calculated and compared between wear stages, taxa, and sexes. The results failed to show a difference in occlusal relief between males and females of a given taxon, but did evince differences between wear stages and between taxa. A lack of significant interaction between wear stage and taxon factors suggests that differences in occlusal relief between chimpanzees and gorillas are maintained throughout the wear sequence. These results add to a growing body of information on how molar teeth change with wear, and how differences between primate species are maintained at comparable points throughout the wear sequence. Such studies provide new insights into form-function relationships, which will allow us to infer certain aspects of diet in fossils with worn teeth.