Genetic integration of molar cusp size variation in baboons

Christina Koh, Elizabeth Bates, Elizabeth Broughton, Nicholas T. Do, Zachary Fletcher, Michael C. Mahaney, Leslea J. Hlusko

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    29 Scopus citations


    Many studies of primate diversity and evolution rely on dental morphology for insight into diet, behavior, and phylogenetic relationships. Consequently, variation in molar cusp size has increasingly become a phenotype of interest. In 2007 we published a quantitative genetic analysis of mandibular molar cusp size variation in baboons. Those results provided more questions than answers, as the pattern of genetic integration did not fit predictions from odontogenesis. To follow up, we expanded our study to include data from the maxillary molar cusps. Here we report on these later analyses, as well as inter-arch comparisons with the mandibular data. We analyzed variation in two-dimensional maxillary molar cusp size using data collected from a captive pedigreed breeding colony of baboons, Papio hamadryas, housed at the Southwest National Primate Research Center. These analyses show that variation in maxillary molar cusp size is heritable and sexually dimorphic. We also estimated additive genetic correlations between cusps on the same crown, homologous cusps along the tooth row, and maxillary and mandibular cusps. The pattern for maxillary molars yields genetic correlations of one between the paracone-metacone and protocone-hypocone. Bivariate analyses of cuspal homologues on adjacent teeth yield correlations that are high or not significantly different from one. Between dental arcades, the nonoccluding cusps consistently yield high genetic correlations, especially the metaconid-paracone and metaconid-metacone. This pattern of genetic correlation does not immediately accord with the pattern of development and/or calcification, however these results do follow predictions that can be made from the evolutionary history of the tribosphenic molar.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)246-260
    Number of pages15
    JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2010


    • Dental variation
    • Dentition
    • Evolution
    • Papio
    • Primates
    • Quantitative genetics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anatomy
    • Anthropology


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