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Folivory, frugivory, and postcanine size in the cercopithecoidea revisited

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Abstract

At a given body mass, folivorous colobines have smaller postcanine teeth than frugivorous cercopithecines. This distinction is a notable exception to the general tendency for folivorous primates to have relatively larger postcanine tooth rows than closely related frugivores. The reason for this anomalous pattern is unclear, but one potential explanation is that the difference in facial size between these two subfamilies confounds the comparison—i.e., it may be that the large postcanine teeth of cercopithecines are a consequence of their large faces. The goal of this study was to test this hypothesis. Phylogenetic comparative methods were used to examine the relationships among postcanine area, facial size, and body mass in 29 anthropoid primates, including eight colobines and eight cercopithecines. Results indicate that there is a strong and highly significant partial correlation between postcanine area and facial size when body mass is held constant, which supports the hypothesis that facial size has an important influence on postcanine size. Moreover, colobines have larger postcanine teeth relative to facial size than cercopithecines. Surprisingly, when facial size is held constant, the partial correlation between postcanine area and body mass is weak and nonsignificant. These results suggest that facial size may be more appropriate than body mass for size-adjusting postcanine measurements in some contexts. A phylogenetic comparative test of the association between diet and relative postcanine size (scaled using facial size) confirms that folivorous anthropoids are characterized by relatively large postcanine teeth in comparison to closely related nonfolivores. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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