Linear enamel hypoplasia in the great apes: Analysis by genus and locality

Darcy Hannibal, Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Most studies report a high prevalence of linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) in the great apes relative to other nonhuman primates and some human populations. It is unclear if this difference is a direct result of poor health status for the great apes, or if it represents differential incidence due to a lower threshold (sensu Goodman and Rose, 1990 Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. [suppl.] 33:59-110) for the occurrence of enamel hypoplasia among great apes. This study uses the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's great ape collection to examine the prevalence of LEH, the most common type of hypoplasia observed. Frequencies of LEH are reported, as well as analyses by taxa and provenience. The study sample consists of 136 specimens and includes 41 gorillas, 25 chimpanzees, and 70 orangutans. Analyses of frequencies are presented for both individuals and teeth by taxonomic category and locality. Among the individuals in this study, 63.97% are affected by LEH. Overall, gorillas (29.27%) exhibit lower frequencies of LEH than chimpanzees (68.00%) and orangutans (82.86%). There is a marked difference in LEH frequencies between mountain and lowland gorillas. There is no difference in LEH frequencies between Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. A range of variation for the great apes in enamel hypoplasia frequencies is found when taxon and locality are considered. It is likely that both biological and environmental factors influence the high frequencies of enamel hypoplasia exhibited in the great apes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental defect
  • Developmental stress
  • Enamel hypoplasia
  • Great apes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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