Measuring the Toughness of Primate Foods and its Ecological Value
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- Lucas, P.W., Copes, L., Constantino, P.J. et al. Int J Primatol (2012) 33: 598. doi:10.1007/s10764-011-9540-9
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The mechanical properties of plant foods play an important role in the feeding process, being one of many criteria for food acceptance or rejection by primates. One of the simplest justifications for this statement is the general finding that primates tend to avoid foods with high fiber. Although fiber is largely tasteless, odorless, and colorless, it imparts texture, a sensation in the mouth related to the physical properties of foods. All primates encounter such mechanical resistance when they bite into plant food, and studies on humans show that an incisal bite facilitates quick oral assessment of a property called toughness. Thus, it is feasible that primates make similar assessments of quality in this manner. Here, we review methods of measuring the toughness of primate foods, which can be used either for making general surveys of the properties of foods available to primates or for establishing the mechanisms that protect these foods from the evolved form of the dentition.