Dental microwear and diet in Venezuelan primates



Recent microwear analyses have demonstrated that wear patterns can be correlated with dietary differences. However, much of this work has been based on analyses of museum material where dates and locations of collection are not well known. In view of these difficulties, it would be desirable to compare microwear patterns for different genera collected from the same area at the same time.

The opportunity to do this was provided by the collections of the Smithsonian Venezuelan Project (Handley, 1976), in which multiple primate genera were collected from the same humid tropical forest sites within the same month. The monkeys represent a wide range of dietary preferences, and include Saimiri, Cebus, Chiropotes, Ateles, Aotus, Pithecia, and Alouatta.

As in previous microwear analyses, epoxy replicas were prepared from dental impressions, as described by Rose (1983) and Teaford and Oyen (1989). Two micrographs were taken of facet 9 on an upper second molar of each specimen. Computations and analyses were the same as described by Teaford and Robinson (1989).

Results reaffirm previously documented differences in dental microwear between primates that feed on hard objects versus those that do not—with Pithecia and Alouatta at the extremes of a range of microwear patterns including more subtle differences between species with intermediate diets. The subtle microwear differences are by no means easy to document in museum samples. However, additional results suggest that 1) the width of microscopic scratches may be a poor indicator of dietary differences, 2) large and small pits may be formed differently, and 3) there are very few seasonal differences in dental microwear in the primates at these humid tropical forest sites. © Wiley-Liss, Inc.