On the definition of variables in studies of primate dental allometry



Cranial and dental measurements are taken on 253 adult female primates from 32 species. Regression equations are calculated to determine allometric relationships between anterior tooth size, posterior tooth size, and body size. When cranial length or skull length is used as the measure of general size, the results of the equations differ from when body weight is the reference dimension. Similarly, using different definitions of posterior tooth size (such as mandibular second molar length and maxillary postcanine area) alters results substantially. The same occurs with different definitions of anterior tooth size. It has been common in studies of primate dental allometry to generalize from the specific variables measured to broad functional interpretations. However, highly correlated variables cannot be substituted one for another in allometric analyses without important changes in the results of the equation. Interpretation of allometric data is more highly restricted to the precise variables measured in a particular study than has been generally recognized.