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Keywords:

  • Saimiri;
  • Orbit;
  • Ontogeny;
  • New World monkeys;
  • Predation

Abstract

Among primates, squirrel monkeys uniquely possess an interorbital fenestra, in which the midline bony orbitosphenoid septum is largely absent and the soft tissues of the orbits are separated only by a thin membrane. Neural development may contribute to the approximation of the orbits to the midline in Saimiri, insofar as other platyrrhines with relatively large brains also have relatively narrow interorbital spaces compared to their near relatives. In Saimiri the narrow spacing of the orbits is further exacerbated by intense predation pressure on infants that may select for precocial neonates. The result is a large-headed neonate that is subject to unusual parturition constraints. These parturition constraints apply to the size and dolichocephalic shape of the squirrel monkey head in general, and to the relatively large eyes and approximated orbits in particular. The unique interorbital condition in Saimiri is an example of the effects of life history on skeletal morphology. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.