Of 1,030 individual dental fossils (teeth and jaw sections) discovered in the Southern Bighorn Basin (Wyoming, United States), 77 (7.48%) displayed dental caries, likely to be caused by a high fruit diet or other sugar-rich foods.
‘Changes in the prevalence of caries over time indicate that the primates diet fluctuated.’
Researchers compared the position of fossils in strata of sediment from the Southern Bighorn Basin to determine their age. Fossils could be dated based on the geological age of sediment in which they were found.
They found that the earliest and latest occurring specimens had fewer caries compared to the rest of their sample, which may indicate that the primates� diet fluctuated between foods with higher and lower sugar content.
They also argue that fluctuating climates during the Early Eocene may have impacted vegetation growth and food availability.
Researchers also found that there was a higher prevalence of caries in the fossils of Microsyops latidens compared to the frequencies reported in studies of primates alive today.
Only the genera Cebus (such as capuchins) and Saguinus (such as tamarins) had a higher prevalence of caries than Microsyops latidens.