Functional patterns of molar occlusion in platyrrhine primates


  • A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (Kinzey and Rosenberger, '74).


Mechanico-functional features of molar form were studied in Callithrix, Alouatta, Pithecia and Cebus. Molars of Callithrix and Alouatta are adapted to loading foods under relatively high occlusal pressure; those of Pithecia and Cebus, under relatively low occlusal pressure. General functional considerations suggest that these taxa are adapted to insectivorous, folivorous, frugivorous and omnivorous diets, respectively. The physical properties of foods, principally mechanical strength and deformability, determine the selective pressures involved in the evolutionary adaptation of molar form. A dietary classification based upon percentages of foods eaten does not always reflect morphological adaptations. Homologous parts of teeth and homologous parts of the masticatory cycle do not always subserve equivalent functions. The relevance of functional occlusal analysis for deciphering phylogeny and explaining evolutionary grades is stressed.