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Primate tooth crown nomenclature revisited

Chapple, Simon A., Skinner, Matthew M. (2023) Primate tooth crown nomenclature revisited. PeerJ, 11 . Article Number e14523. ISSN 2167-8359. (doi:10.7717/peerj.14523) (KAR id:99850)


Cusp patterning on living and extinct primate molar teeth plays a crucial role in species diagnoses, phylogenetic inference, and the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the primate clade. These studies rely on a system of nomenclature that can accurately identify and distinguish between the various structures of the crown surface. However, studies at the enamel-dentine junction (EDJ) of some primate taxa have demonstrated a greater degree of cusp variation and expression at the crown surface than current systems of nomenclature allow. In this study, we review the current nomenclature and its applicability across all the major primate clades based on investigations of mandibular crown morphology at the enamel-dentine junction revealed through microtomography. From these observations, we reveal numerous new patterns of lower molar accessory cusp expression in primates. We highlight numerous discrepancies between the expected patterns of variation inferred from the current academic literature, and the new patterns of expected variation seen in this study. Based on the current issues associated with the crown nomenclature, and an incomplete understanding of the precise developmental processes associated with each individual crown feature, we introduce these structures within a conservative, non-homologous naming scheme that focuses on simple location-based categorisations. Until there is a better insight into the developmental and phylogenetic origin of these crown features, these categorisations are the most practical way of addressing these structures. Until then, we also suggest the cautious use of accessory cusps for studies of taxonomy and phylogeny.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.7717/peerj.14523
Uncontrolled keywords: Cusp patterning, Tooth crown, Odontogenesis, Tooth, Dental anthropology, Primates, Molar - anatomy & histology, Phylogeny, Tooth Crown, Animals
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: European Research Council (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2023 15:44 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 15:18 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Chapple, Simon A..

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Skinner, Matthew M..

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