Dental microstructure and life history in subfossil Malagasy lemurs

Gary T. Schwartz, Karen E. Samonds, Laurie R. Godfrey, William L. Jungers, Elwyn L. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


When compared with their recently extinct relatives, living lemurs represent a mere fraction of a broad radiation that occupied unique niches in the recent past. Among living lemurs, indrids exhibit the fastest rates of dental development. This dental precocity is tightly correlated with rapid pace of postnatal dental eruption, early replacement of the deciduous teeth, high dental endowment at weaning, and relatively slow somatic growth. This pattern is in stark contrast to that seen in extant lemurids, where somatic development is highly accelerated and dental development is relatively slow. We report on the pace of dental development in one species of palaeopropithecid, the sister group to extant indrids. Like much smaller modern indrids, the chimpanzee-sized Palaeopropithecus ingens was dentally precocious at birth as evidenced by the advanced state of molar crown formation. This finding implies a pattern characteristic of Propithecus and other indrids - rapid dental development despite relatively prolonged gestation. Gestation length in this one species of subfossil lemur was likely greater than 9 months. Our results demonstrate that large body size in primates does not preclude exceedingly rapid dental development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6124-6129
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 30 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Body size
  • Dental development
  • Gestation length
  • Incremental markings
  • Palaeopropithecus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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