Dental microwear and microstructure in early oligocene primates from the Fayum, Egypt: Implications for diet

Mark F. Teaford, Mary C. Maas, Elwyn L. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Textbook descriptions usually portray the Fayum anthropoideans as frugivores, with Parapithecus grangeri including a folivorous component in its diet and Apidium a component of hard-object feeding. Recent work with modern mammals has shown that analyses of both dental microwear and dental microstructure may yield insights into diet and tooth use. The purpose of this study was to combine these two techniques to gain a better perspective on the paleobiology of the Fayum higher primates. Dental microwear analyses involved the use of high resolution epoxy casts of Aegyptopithecus, Parapithecus, and Apidium housed in the Duke University Primate Center. Scanning electron micrographs were taken at x500, and all microwear features in each micrograph were digitized. For microstructure analyses, molar teeth were sectioned in a variety of planes, lightly etched, and photographed in the SEM. Results of the dental microwear analyses indicate that the three Fayum anthropoideans all clustered with modern primate frugivores but that there were also significant differences between Aegyptopithecus and the other two Fayum genera. By contrast, dental microstructure analyses showed important differences between Apidium and the other two genera. The reason for these differences probably lies in a combination of body size and dietary differences, with Aegyptopithecus occasionally feeding on hard objects and Apidium maximizing wear resistance through a unique emphasis of radial (rather than decussating) enamel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-543
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Aegyptopithecus
  • African
  • Anthropoidea
  • Apidium
  • Dental microstructure
  • Dental microwear
  • Diet
  • Oligocene
  • Parapithecus
  • Primates
  • Scanning electron microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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