• Sexual dimorphism;
  • Sexual selection;
  • Anthropoidea;
  • Primates;
  • Canine teeth


A number of factors, including sexual selection, body weight, body-weight dimorphism, predation, diet, and phylogenetic inertia have been proposed as influences on the evolution of canine dimorphism in anthropoid primates. Although these factors are not mutually exclusive, opinions vary as to which is the most important. The role of sexual selection has been questioned because mating system, which should reflect its strength, poorly predicts variation in canine dimorphism, particularly among polygynous species. Kay et al. (1988) demonstrate that a more refined estimate of intermale competition explains a large proportion of the variation in canine dimorphism in platyrrhine primates. We expand their analysis, developing a more generalized measure of intermale competition based on the frequency and intensity of male-male agonism. We examine the relative influences of predation (inferred by substrate use), female body weight, body-weight dimorphism, diet, and sexual selection on the evolution of anthropoid canine dimorphism. Intermale competition is very strongly associated with canine dimorphism. Predation also has a marked effect on canine dimorphism, in that savanna-dwelling species consistently show greater canine dimorphism than other species, all other factors being held equal. Body-weight dimorphism is also strongly associated with canine dimorphism, though apparently through a common selective basis, rather than through allometric effects. Body weight seems to play only a minor, indirect role in the evolution of canine dimorphism. Diet plays no role. Likewise, we find little evidence that phylogenetic inertia is a constraint on the evolution of canine dimorphism.