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A comparison of Salivary pH in Sympatric Wil Lemurs (Lemur Catta and Propithecus Verreauxi
American Journal of Primatology (2008)
  • Laurie Godfrey, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • F. P Cuzzo
  • M. L Sauther
  • N. Yamashita
  • J. R Scott
  • M. A Weber
  • R. R Lawler
  • D. K Brockman
  • L. Gould
  • I. A Jacky
  • Youssouf C Lent
  • J. Ratsirarson
  • A. F Richard
  • R. W Sussman
  • L. M Villers
  • G. Willis
Chemical deterioration of teeth is common among modern humans, and has been suggested for some extinct primates. Dental erosion caused by acidic foods may also obscure microwear signals of mechanical food properties. Ring-tailed lemurs at the Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR), Madagascar, display frequent severe tooth wear and subsequent tooth loss. In contrast, sympatric Verreaux's sifaka display far less tooth wear and infrequent tooth loss, despite both species regularly consuming acidic tamarind fruit. We investigated the potential impact of dietary acidity on tooth wear, collecting data on salivary pH from both species, as well as salivary pH from ring-tailed lemurs at Tsimanampesotse National Park, Madagascar. We also collected salivary pH data from ring-tailed lemurs at the Indianapolis Zoo, none of which had eaten for at least 12 hr before data collection. Mean salivary pH for the BMSR ring-tailed lemurs (8.098, n=41, SD=0.550) was significantly more alkaline than Verreaux's sifaka (7.481, n=26, SD=0.458). The mean salivary pH of BMSR (8.098) and Tsimanampesotse (8.080, n=25, SD=0.746) ring-tailed lemurs did not differ significantly. Salivary pH for the Indianapolis Zoo sample (8.125, n=16, SD=0.289) did not differ significantly from either the BMSR or Tsimanampesotse ring-tailed lemurs, but was significantly more alkaline than the BMSR Verreaux's sifaka sample. Regardless of the time between feeding and collection of pH data (from several minutes to nearly 1 hr), salivary pH for each wild lemur was above the "critical" pH of 5.5, below which enamel demineralization occurs. Thus, the high pH of lemur saliva suggests a strong buffering capacity, indicating the impact of acidic foods on dental wear is short-lived, likely having a limited effect. However, tannins in tamarind fruit may increase friction between teeth, thereby increasing attrition and wear in lemurs. These data also suggest that salivary pH varies between lemur species, corresponding to broad dietary categories.
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Citation Information
Laurie Godfrey, F. P Cuzzo, M. L Sauther, N. Yamashita, et al.. "A comparison of Salivary pH in Sympatric Wil Lemurs (Lemur Catta and Propithecus Verreauxi" American Journal of Primatology Vol. 70 Iss. 4 (2008)
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