The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Dental microwear texture analysis and ecological plasticity in Alouatta belzebul


1Physical Therapy, High Point University, 2Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales-CSIC, Madrid, Spain, 3Anthropology, University of Arkansas

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Howler monkeys occupy a wide range of habitats and have a diet that includes leaves, fruits and flowers. As a result, they readily adjust to major habitat changes and are often among the first platyrrhines to move into secondary forests. With this in mind, museum samples of Alouatta belzebul from two areas of tropical rainforest in northern Brazil were analyzed using dental microwear texture analysis: Fazenda Taperinha (specimens collected during the first half of the 20th Century), and UHE-Tucuruí at the Tocantins River (specimens collected during the 1980’s after deforestation). Both sites are located in the Pará State.

All specimens used in this study are housed at the Museu Paraese Emilio Goeldi (MPEG) in Belém, Brazil. Three-dimensional point clouds were generated from high resolution epoxy casts of Phase II facets from M1s or M2s of 60 individuals using a white-light confocal profiler. Microwear texture attributes (complexity, anisotropy, textural fill volume, scale of maximum complexity, and heterogeneity of complexity) were produced using scale-sensitive fractal analysis. Despite differences in microwear texture variables between the A. belzebul samples from MPEG and other primate species, conservative statistical analyses failed to reveal significant differences between the howlers from Fazenda Taperinha and UHE-Tucuruí. This implies that these primates found foods with similar material properties at the two sites despite the habitat differences. This might, in turn, be a clue as to how howlers cope successfully with habitat modification.

This research was supported by The Leakey Foundation.

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