Functional morphology of the mangabey mandibular corpus: Relationship to dental specializations and feeding behavior



Recent molecular and morphological surveys suggest that mangabeys do not represent a monophyletic group. Specifically, Cercocebus is the sister taxon of Mandrillus, whereas Lophocebus forms an unresolved trichotomy with Papio and Theropithecus. The Cercocebus-Mandrillus clade is characterized by skeletal and dental adaptations related to acquisition and processing of hard-object foods that resist decomposition for months on the forest floor. Although species of both mangabey genera can be described as frugivorous seed predators with a strong reliance on hard-object foods, a growing body of evidence indicates that Cercocebus (terrestrial) and Lophocebus (arboreal) mangabeys differ in the hardness of the seeds they consume and the manner in which seeds are processed. The taxa are also distinguished on the basis of dental morphology. Given the purported differences in feeding behaviors of the two mangabey genera, we consider whether there are predictable biomechanical consequences of these behaviors that are reflected in mandibular corpus dimensions. In addition, we present metric data summarizing functional aspects of mangabey mandibular corpus morphology. Mangabey genera are generally not distinguished by differences in relative corpus size, either in postcanine or symphyseal regions. Distinct symphyseal scaling patterns characterize the Papio-Lophocebus clade and the Mandrillus-Cercocebus clade, while the postcanine corpus scales similarly between them. The hypothesis that preferential use of the incisors vs. premolars to initially process these foods results in distinct stress environments is weakly supported, given circumstantial evidence that the relative importance of bending vs. torsion may differ between Cercocebus and Lophocebus. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.