Teeth grow incrementally and preserve within them a record of that incremental growth in the form of microscopic growth lines. Studying dental development in extinct and extant primates, and its relationship to adult brain and body size as well as other life history and ecological parameters (e.g., diet, somatic growth rates, gestation length, age at weaning), holds the potential to yield unparalleled insights into the life history profiles of fossil primates. Here, we address the absolute pace of dental development in Megaladapis edwardsi, a giant extinct lemur of Madagascar. By examining the microstructure of the first and developing second molars in a juvenile individual, we establish a chronology of molar crown development for this specimen (M1CFT = 1.04 years; M2CFT = 1.42 years) and determine its age at death (1.39 years). Microstructural data on prenatal M1crown formation time allow us to calculate a minimum gestation length of 0.54 years for this species. Postnatal crown and root formation data allow us to estimate its age at M1emergence (∼0.9 years) and to establish a minimum age for M2emergence (>1.39 years). Finally, using reconstructions or estimates (drawn elsewhere) of adult body mass, brain size, and diet in Megaladapis, as well as the eruption sequence of its permanent teeth, we explore the efficacy of these variables in predicting the absolute pace of dental development in this fossil species. We test competing explanations of variation in crown formation timing across the order Primates. Brain size is the best single predictor of crown formation time in primates, but other variables help to explain the variation. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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