Chimpanzee teeth

July 30th, 2013 by Debbie

Apes (humans included) all have the same dentition pattern, which is a fancy way of saying we have the same number of teeth, and in the same order, across the board. We also have baby teeth, or “milk teeth,” that we loose when the adult teeth come in.

One difference between our dentition is that though non-human apes have canines in the same place as humans, their canines are much larger than ours. What we know about diet probably doesn’t explain why they would have almost carnivore-sized canines. All apes eat mostly fruit, leaves, and other plant items as well as the occasional small mammal meat in the case of chimps. Still, even that small amount of meat wouldn’t be the reason for why non-human apes have such large canines.

What other purpose can teeth serve if not to chew up food? Threat. Certainly large canines are quite intimidating, and can serve as a warning to enemies to stay back, or else you could get bit and boy—it’ll hurt!

In these photos you’ll see the large canines I’m referring to—the chimps are only yawning, but you can see just how intimidating their teeth can be. Just another reason why chimpanzees do not make good pets!


web Foxie teeth troll_MG_8035


web Negra yawn teeth PR IMG_2266





8 Responses to “Chimpanzee teeth”

  1. Amy M says:

    Thanks a lot, Debbie. Now I’m yawning, too, displaying my (much smaller) canines lol.

  2. Kerri says:

    What (else) I took from this post is that they STILL have their canines! I dont need to tell you how sad it is to look at chimp with out them, and then wonder “how” or “why”.

  3. Ivy M. Yardley says:

    Jamie looks pretty intimidating in her photo. I’d surely stay away from here looking like that.

  4. Could the canines be used for breaking leaves of branches or breaking branches for beds etc. They done have knives or scissors etc.

    • Debbie says:

      Great question! Yes that is a benefit to having large canines, but it probably isn’t the reason it evolved. Since chimps are particularly aggressive to neighboring groups (and even each other within a group at times!) it’s very useful to have a visual signal for threat. But there are other uses for large canines—in addition to breaking branches, they are certainly helpful for hunting prey.

  5. diana says:

    Maybe the size of the canines is relative to body mass. Although Chimps are shorter than man the have greater body mass. Human sized teeth would look odd in the larger Chimpanzee mouth.

  6. Chris says:

    OMG! That toothy photo of Jamie is absolutely frightening! No wonder she’s the boss around there! 🙂