Incisor size and diet revisited: The view from a platyrrhine perspective

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Abstract

Allometric relationships between incisor size and body size were determined for 26 species of New World primates. While previous studies have suggested that the incisors of Old World primates, and anthropoids in general, scale isometrically with body size, the data presented here indicate a negative allometric relationship between incisor size and body size among New World species. This negative allometry was exhibited by platyrrhines when either upper or lower incisor row length was regressed against body weight, and when either least-squares or bivariate principal axis equations were used. When upper incisor length was plotted against skull length, negative allometry could be sustained using both statistical techniques only when the full sample of 26 species was plotted. The choice of variables to represent incisor size and body size, and the choice of a statistical technique to effect the allometric equation, had a more pronounced impact on the location of individual species with regard to lines of best fit.

Platyrrhines as a group have smaller incisors relative to body size than do catarrhines, regardless of diet. Among New World primates, small incisors represent a plausible primitive condition; species with relatively large incisors manifest a phyletic change associated with a dietary shift to foods that require increased incisal preparation. The opposite trend characterizes Old World primates. In spite of the taxonomic differences in relative incisor size between platyrrhine and catarrhine primates, inferences about diet derived from an allometric equation for all anthropoids should prove reliable as long as the species with unknown diet does not lie at the upper end of the body size range for platyrrhines or catarrhines.

Ancillary