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Keywords:

  • Cebus;
  • Growth;
  • Allometry;
  • Skeleton;
  • Adaptation

Abstract

Cebus albifrons and Cebus apella, partially sympatric capuchin monkeys from South America, are known to differ substantially in adult body mass and bodily proportions. C. apella possesses a robust, stocky build in contrast to the more gracile, relatively longer limbed body design of C. albifrons. Average birth weights and adult body lengths of these two congeners, however, are remarkably similar and do not serve to distinguish them. This study examines longitudinal growth rates and patterns of ontogenetic scaling in the extremities (humerus, radius, hand, femur, tibia, foot) in order to document the nature and magnitude of skeletal changes associated with increasing age and body mass.

Our data indicate that the growth rates of the six skeletal components of the limbs differ only slightly and somewhat inconsistently between the two species. Body mass, however, increases at a consistently faster rate in C. apella. Relative to body mass, therefore, the extremities of C. albifrons scale much faster than those of C. apella. This implies that at any given postnatal body mass, C. albifrons is longer limbed than C. apella. Conversely, C. apella is heavier than C. albifrons at any given limb length or age. We suggest that such differences in body mass distribution are causally related to differences in locomotor behavior and foraging strategies. Specifically, the relatively long-limbed C. albifrons is probably more cursorial and tends to travel longer distances each day than C. apella. C. apella is a much more deliberate quadruped and is also characterized by especially vigorous and powerful foraging and feeding behaviors. We also compare our results to other (mostly cross-sectional) studies of skeletal growth allometry in nonhuman primates.