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

Postcanine tooth size in anthropoid primates in relation to dietary behavior


Functional Anatomy and Evolution, Johns Hopkins

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Previous studies have demonstrated how molar size scales with body mass across primates, and this relationship has important implications for inferring body size and dietary adaptation in fossil primate species. However, there are many instances among primates in which this general relationship is not applicable to individual species, where postcanine tooth size is disproportionate relative to body size. This study investigates the relationship between postcanine megadonty and microdonty and dietary behavior among extant anthropoid primates. In particular, it examines the way relative postcanine size varies across taxonomic subgroupings and between sexes and quantifies the relationships between different measures of postcanine megadonty, as well as how individual teeth contribute to overall postcanine tooth area. The results show that the taxonomic level at which the analysis is performed has an effect on the relative degree of megadonty in individual species and demonstrate that there is no simple relationship between megadonty and diet among primates and that a combination of dietary behavior, mechanical properties of the foods, cranial architecture and phylogeny may play a part in relative postcanine dental size. These finding imply that caution is necessary in making direct inferences about dietary behavior of fossil species, including hominins, based on the relative size of the postcanine dentition.

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