Dietary variation and food hardness in sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys): Implications for fallback foods and dental adaptation



We present information on food hardness and monthly dietary changes in female sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys) in Tai Forest, Ivory Coast to reassess the hypothesis that thick molar enamel is parsimoniously interpreted as a response to consumption of hard foods during fallback periods. We demonstrate that the diet of sooty mangabeys varies seasonally, but that one food—Sacoglottis gabonensis—is the most frequently consumed food every month and year round. This food is the hardest item in the sooty diet. Given that this species has among the thickest enamel within the primate order, a plausible conclusion is that thick enamel in this taxon evolved not in response to seasonally critical function or fallback foods, but rather to the habitual, year round processing of a mechanically protected foodstuff. These data serve as a caution against de rigueur interpretations that reliance on fallback foods during lean periods primarily explains the evolution of thick enamel in primates. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:413–423, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.