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Ontogenetic correlates of diet in Malagasy lemurs

Authors

  • L.R. Godfrey,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003-9278
    • Department of Anthropology, Machmer Hall, 240 Hicks Way, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-9278
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  • K.E. Samonds,

    1. Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081
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  • W.L. Jungers,

    1. Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-8081
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  • M.R. Sutherland,

    1. Statistical Consulting Center, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003-9337
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  • M.T. Irwin

    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-4364
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Abstract

There is a well-documented relationship between development and other life-history parameters among anthropoid primates. Smaller-bodied anthropoids tend to mature more rapidly than do larger-bodied species. Among anthropoids of similar body sizes, folivorous species tend to grow and mature more quickly than do frugivorous species, thus attaining adult body size at an earlier age. This pattern conforms to the expectations of Janson and van Schaik's “ecological risk aversion hypothesis,” which predicts that rates of growth and maturation should vary in inverse relation to the intensity of intraspecific feeding competition. According to the ecological risk aversion hypothesis (RAH), species experiencing high intraspecific feeding competition will grow and mature slowly to reduce the risk of mortality due to food shortages. Species experiencing low levels of intraspecific feeding competition will shorten the juvenile period to reduce the overall duration of this high-risk portion of the life cycle. This paper focuses on development and maturation in lemurs. We show that folivorous lemurs (such as indriids) grow and mature more slowly than like-sized frugivorous lemurs (e.g., most lemurids), but tend to exhibit faster dental development. Their dental developmental schedules are accelerated on an absolute scale, relative to craniofacial growth, and relative to particular life-history landmarks, such as weaning. Dental development has a strong phylogenetic component: even those lemurids that consume substantial amounts of foliage have slower dental development than those indriids that consume substantial amounts of fruit. Implications of these results for the RAH are discussed, and an explanation for this hypothesis' failure to predict lemur growth schedules is offered. We propose that the differing developmental schedules of folivorous and frugivorous lemurs may reflect different solutions to the ecological problem of environmental instability: some rely on a strategy of low maternal input and slow returns, while others rely on a strategy of high maternal input and fast returns. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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