Lemurs are notable for encompassing the range of body-size variation for all primates past and present—close to four orders of magnitude. Benefiting from the phylogenetic proximity of subfossil lemurs to smaller-bodied living forms, we employ allometric data from the skull to probe the ontogenetic bases of size differentiation and morphological diversity across these clades. Building upon prior pairwise comparisons between sister taxa, we performed the first clade-wide analyses of craniomandibular growth allometries in 359 specimens from 10 lemuroids and 176 specimens from 8 indrioids. Ontogenetic trajectories for extant forms were used as a criterion of subtraction to evaluate morphological variation, and putative adaptations among sister taxa. In other words, do species-level differences in skull form result from the differential extension of common patterns of relative growth?
In lemuroids, a pervasive pattern of ontogenetic scaling is observed for facial dimensions in all genera, with three genera also sharing relative growth trajectories for jaw proportions (Lemur, Eulemur, Varecia). Differences in masticatory growth and form characterizing Hapalemur and fossil Pachylemur likely reflect dietary factors. Pervasive ontogenetic scaling characterizes the facial skull in extant Indri, Avahi, and Propithecus, as well as their larger, extinct sister taxa Mesopropithecus and Babakotia. Significant interspecific differences are observed in the allometry of indrioid masticatory proportions, with variation in the mechanical advantage of the jaw adductors and stress-resisting elements correlated with diet. As the growth series and adult data are largely coincidental in each clade, interspecific variation in facial form may result from selection for body-size differentiation among sister taxa. Those cases where trajectories are discordant identify potential dietary adaptations linked to variation in masticatory forces during chewing and biting. Although such dissociations highlight selection to uncouple shared ancestral growth patterns, they occur largely via transpositions and retention of primitive size-shape covariation patterns or relative growth coefficients. Am. J. Primatol. 72:161–172, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.