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

Enamel thickness and hard-object feeding in mangabeys


1Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Anthropology, University of Florida

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Enamel thickness varies significantly across primates. Understanding its sources of variation is important since enamel thickness provides both taxonomic and functional information. The Old World monkeys commonly known as mangabeys have figured prominently in investigations of feeding ecology and enamel thickness. Here, we report novel absolute and relative enamel thickness values for four mangabey taxa (Cercocebus atys, C. torquatus, Lophocebus aterrimus and L. albigena), test the association between enamel thickness and durophagy, and offer revised interpretation of its significance in papionin evolution.

Our data indicate that thick enamel characterizes every mangabey species from both papionin clades sampled and that these values equal or exceed published values for other extant primates. In addition, new field data - combined with a current reading of the dietary literature -indicate that hard foods are included in the diets of every mangabey species sampled to date.

We conclude that (1) mangabeys from both clades have converged on a diet that includes at least some hard objects, (2) that they share some (thick enamel) but not all (expanded premolars) dental adaptations for processing obdurate foods, and that (3) their M2 enamel thickness values are among the highest of all primates. Whether thick enamel generally is an evolved response to the material properties of foods consumed during “fallback episodes” or to foods consumed year round remains to be determined; however, these data argue for the latter scenario in that at least one mangabey species (C. atys) routinely processes very hard foods throughout the year.

Supported by NSFBCS-0922429 and 0921770.

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