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Dental topography indicates ecological contraction of lemur communities

Authors

  • Laurie R. Godfrey,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003
    • Department of Anthropology, 240 Hicks Way, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, United States
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  • Julia M. Winchester,

    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
    2. Institute for Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
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  • Stephen J. King,

    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003
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  • Doug M. Boyer,

    1. Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081
    2. Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY 11210-2850
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  • Jukka Jernvall

    1. Institute for Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
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Abstract

Understanding the paleoecology of extinct subfossil lemurs requires reconstruction of dietary preferences. Tooth morphology is strongly correlated with diet in living primates and is appropriate for inferring dietary ecology. Recently, dental topographic analysis has shown great promise in reconstructing diet from molar tooth form. Compared with traditionally used shearing metrics, dental topography is better suited for the extraordinary diversity of tooth form among subfossil lemurs and has been shown to be less sensitive to phylogenetic sources of shape variation. Specifically, we computed orientation patch counts rotated (OPCR) and Dirichlet normal energy (DNE) of molar teeth belonging to 14 species of subfossil lemurs and compared these values to those of an extant lemur sample. The two metrics succeeded in separating species in a manner that provides insights into both food processing and diet. We used them to examine the changes in lemur community ecology in Southern and Southwestern Madagascar that accompanied the extinction of giant lemurs. We show that the poverty of Madagascar's frugivore community is a long-standing phenomenon and that extinction of large-bodied lemurs in the South and Southwest resulted not merely in a loss of guild elements but also, most likely, in changes in the ecology of extant lemurs. Am J Phys Anthropol 148:215–227, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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