Relationship of incisor size to diet and anterior tooth use in sympatric sumatran anthropoids


  • Peter S. Ungar

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    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas
    • Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Old Main 330, Fayetteville, AR 72701
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Researchers often relate anthropoid incisor size to diet and ingestive behaviors. It is suggested that primates that frequently consume large, tough foods (i.e., fruits) require large incisors to process these items. This idea has been difficult to test because of a lack of data on anterior tooth use in wild primates, and a lack of understanding concerning the relationships between food properties and ingestive behaviors. The first field study of primate ingestive behaviors has recently been completed for four species of Sumatran anthropoids: Hylobates lar, Macaca fascicularis, Pongo pygmaeus, and Presbytis thomasi [Ungar, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 95:197–219, 1994; International Journal of Primatology 16:221–245, 1995]. This paper documents both relative and absolute incisor row width differences among these taxa, and evaluates the relationships between incisor size and feeding behaviors for specific taxa. Results indicate that differences in incisor size among these species cannot all be explained by degree of frugivory, food item size, or even degree of incisor use in ingestion alone. It is therefore suggested that inferences of dietary differences based on largely or solely on differences in incisor sizes of specific fossil anthropoid taxa should be approached with caution. © 1996 Wiley-Liss, Inc.