Extinct Great Apes Essay

Extinct Great Apes Essay

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Inferring Dentition and Diet in Extinct Great Apes
by Looking at Extant Great Apes


Knowing the diet of extant primate taxon opens up the possibility of predicting a good deal about its morphology and natural history. Morphology and natural history of extant primates is also important in making accurate inferences regarding their dentition and diet. However, when it comes to extinct primate taxon making dentition and dietary inferences are challenging and the evidence available is indirect (Cuozzo, 2008). The purpose of this research is to address the inferences that can be made about dentition and diet of extinct great apes from the Miocene by looking at dentition and diet of extant great apes including the bonobo, chimpanzee and gorilla. These diverse groups of vanished Miocene apes first existed millions of years ago and later diversified into various forms before they became extinct around 1.4 million years ago (Teaford, 2002).


Reviewing the physical properties of food can be used to investigate the functional morphology of dentition.

The research project has three main objectives:

1. to discuss microwear and time of microwear on teeth of extinct great apes;
2. to discuss changes in habitat and environmental variability, nature of diet and dietary changes, and nature of and reliance on fallback foods of extinct great apes; and
3. to interpret the various studies inferring dentition and diet in extinct great apes.


While the discovery of Australopithecus afarensis made many researchers emphasize bipedalism in human origin scenarios, there is much less attention given to dietary roles in ecology and early hominid evolution. Diet is an important parameter that underlin...

... middle of paper ...

...lar Southeast Asia. International Journal of Primatology 31:1147-1160.

Powers DMW. 2006. Comparative, continuity, and computational evidence in evolutionary theory: Predictive evidence versus productive evidence. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29:294.

Roemer GW, Gompper ME and Van Valkenburgh B. 2009. The ecological role of the mammalian mesocarnivore. Bioscience 59:165-173.

Stanford CB. 2006. The behavioral ecology of sympatric African apes: Implications for understanding fossil hominoid ecology. Primates 47:91-101.

Teaford MF. 2002. Human diet: Its origin and evolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Ungar PA. 2010. Mammal teeth: Origin, evolution and diversity. Maryland: JHU Press.

Wood B and Schroer K. 2012. Rebuilding the diet of an extinct hominin taxon: The function of extant primate models. International Journal of Primatology 33:716-742.

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