Dietary and dental adaptations in the Pitheciinae



Since Mivart (1865), Cacajao, Chiropotes, and Pithecia have been grouped into a single taxon, which he called the subfamily Pitheciinae but which I, following Rosenberger (this issue), refer to as the living members of the tribe Pitheciini. While few today doubt the association of these three living genera, not all would place them together with Aotus and Callicebus in the subfamily Pitheciinae. This is an attempt to sort out the behavioral and morphological features of feeding and dental morphology in these taxa. Extant members of the tribe Pitheciini are adapted for sclerocarpic foraging, morphological evidence for which is found in the fossils of Soriacebus and Cebupithecia. Sclerocarpic foraging in living pitheciins is a two-stage process of seed predation involving 1) specialized features of the anterior dentition that allow removal of a hard pericarp that protects a seed or seeds, followed by 2) mastication by the posterior dentition having low cusp relief to triturate nutritious seeds of a relatively soft and uniformly pliable consistency. The dentitons of fossil pitheciins, Soriacebus and Cebupithecia, demonstrate that the hypertrophy of lower incisors plus the robustness and flaring of the canine precede development of low cusp relief on molars and premolars in the evolution of morphological features associated with sclerocarpic foraging. Features of sclerocarpic foraging are found less uniformly in the other two pitheciines, Callicebus and Aotus. © 1992 Wiley-Less, Inc.