The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Morphological diversity among tufted capuchins

KRISTIN A. WRIGHT1, BARTH W. WRIGHT1, SUSAN FORD2, THOMAS J. MASTERSON, JR.3, DAVID HOBBS2 and JESSICA W. LYNCH ALFARO4.

1Department of Anatomy, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, 2Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, 3Department of Health Sciences, Central Michigan University, 4Center for Society and Genetics, University of California-Los Angeles

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Capuchin monkeys (genus Cebus; Erxleben, 1777) present a compelling model taxon for studies of primate morphological and behavioral adaptation and evolution, particularly given that the genus is host to two distinct morphotypes: a robust tufted group and a gracile untufted group. In the past, the tufted morphotype has essentially been treated as an undifferentiated species and the morphology, behavior, and ecology of a single subspecies has been used to illustrate the tufted ecomorphological pattern. With this history in mind, we ask a central question: How well is our present understanding of tufted capuchin species diversity reflected in both their craniofacial and postcranial morphology? To address this, we use multivariate and phylogenetically generalized bivariate analyses of cranial and postcranial features among tufted capuchin species to test how adequately these taxa can be assigned to their proposed species and how well these morphologies relate to what we know of their diet and positional behavior. Our results suggest that there are four distinct morphological groups consisting of two species in northern South America, two in northeast Brazil, three in central and eastern Brazil, and one in the south west of Brazil into Paraguay. We suggest that microevolutionary differences among these groups can be explained by particular selective pressures present in the ecozones inhabited by these groups. We argue for a collaborative effort to clarify the ecology and evolutionary history of this diverse and adaptable taxon.

This research was supported by NSF BSC-9972603 and BCS-0725136.

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