Developmental processes and canine dimorphism in primate evolution

Gary Schwartz, Ellen R. Miller, Gregg F. Gunnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Understanding the evolutionary history of canine sexual dimorphism is important for interpreting the developmental biology, socioecology and phylogenetic position of primates. All current evidence for extant primates indicates that canine dimorphism is achieved through bimaturism rather than via differences in rates of crown formation time. Using incremental growth lines, we charted the ontogeny of canine formation within species of Eocene Cantius, the earliest known canine-dimorphic primate, to test whether canine dimorphism via bimaturism was developmentally canalized early in primate evolution. Our results show that canine dimorphism in Cantius is achieved primarily through different rates of crown formation in males and females, not bimaturism. This is the first demonstration of rate differences resulting in canine dimorphism in any primate and therefore suggests that canine dimorphism is not developmentally homologous across Primates. The most likely interpretation is that canine dimorphism has been selected for at least twice during the course of primate evolution. The power of this approach is its ability to identify underlying developmental processes behind patterns of morphological similarity, even in long-extinct primate species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of human evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Cantius
  • Enamel
  • Growth and development
  • Incremental lines
  • Tooth formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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