Indicators of Dental Health

Data on primate dental health primarily come from anthropoids (e.g., Lovell, 1990; Schultz, 1935; Smith et al., 1977), and only recently have data been published for lemurs. Lemur dental health (e.g., wear, pathology, and antemortem tooth loss) reflects many variables, including age, diet, habitat, life history, and even human impact (e.g., Cuozzo and Sauther, 2004a, 2006, in press; Sauther et al., 2006). L. catta at Beza Mahafaly often display excessive damage to the toothcomb, with a number of individuals having toothcombs worn more than 50% (Figure 5) (Cuozzo and Sauther, 2006; Cuozzo et al., unpublished data; Sauther et al., 2002).

In addition, the teeth of ring-tailed lemur toothcombs are often broken, chipped, and even missing (Cuozzo and Sauther, 2004a, in press; Sauther et al., 2002), with the majority of dental damage in L. catta occurring in the anterior teeth (e.g., Cuozzo & Sauther, 2006; Cuozzo et al., 2004; Sauther et al., 2002). It is likely that the excessive damage seen in ring-tailed lemur anterior teeth results from the use of the toothcomb in both feeding and grooming (e.g., Sauther et al., 2002; Yamashita, 2003). The frequency of severe wear and antemortem loss of the maxillary incisors in ring-tailed lemurs is also a result of the dual function of anterior tooth use (e.g., Cuozzo and Sauther, 2006, in press). It is important to note that individuals can and do survive for a number of years with anterior tooth

Figure 5. Severe toothcomb wear in an adult ring-tailed lemur (Yellow 195) from Beza Mahafaly: compare with the unworn toothcomb in Figure 2. Also note the severe wear on right P2 (white arrow) (photo courtesy of Michelle Sauther).

damage, and even missing teeth in the toothcomb (e.g., Cuozzo and Sauther, 2004a, in press; Sauther et al., 2002). Also among ring-tailed lemurs, abscessed maxillary canines, which present as open wounds on the muzzle in living individuals, are a regular occurrence at Beza Mahafaly (Cuozzo et al., 2004; Sauther et al., 2006). Their presence corresponds to areas of human impact, and may reflect an increased consumption of nonnative foods in these areas (Cuozzo et al., 2004; Sauther et al., 2006). Decayed and possibly abscessed canines have also been noted among ring-tailed lemurs at Berenty Reserve in southeastern Madagascar (Crawford, personal communication; see Cuozzo and Sauther, in press), an area also impacted by human activity.

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