International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 702-715

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Recovering Dietary Information from Extant and Extinct Primates Using Plant Microremains

  • Amanda G. HenryAffiliated withPlant Foods and Hominin Dietary Ecology Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Email author 


When reconstructing the diets of primates, researchers often rely on several well established methods, such as direct observation, studies of discarded plant parts, and analysis of macrobotanical remains in fecal matter. Most of these studies can be performed only on living primate groups, however, and the diets of extinct, subfossil, and fossil groups are known only from proxy methods. Plant microremains, tiny plant structures with distinctive morphologies, can record the exact plant foods that an individual consumed. They can be recovered from recently deceased and fossil primate samples, and can also be used to supplement traditional dietary analyses in living groups. Here I briefly introduce plant microremains, provide examples of how they have been successfully used to reconstruct the diets of humans and other species, and describe methods for their application in studies of primate dietary ecology.


Dental calculus Fecal sample Phytolith Plant microfossil Starch grain