, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1033-1055

Feeding, Diet, and Jaw Form in West African Colobus and Procolobus

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Abstract

The functional link between mandibular morphology and masticatory stress has been documented by both experimental and comparative investigation. Somewhat more tenuous is the purported connection between dietary variation and the form of the jaws in primates. Several factors complicate the inference of such a connection, including anecdotal or incomplete dietary data from field studies and allometric effects on skeletal form that may have little to do with diet per se. We compared the jaws of sympatric colobines from West Africa to test the effect of diet on mandibular form. Procolobus badius and Colobus polykomos occupy the same habitat yet differ in diet primarily due to the exploitation of hard seeds by C. polykomos. The fact that the two taxa are comparable in body size also obviates the need for allometric qualifications. Colobus polykomos is expected to possess more robust mandibular corpora than Procolobus badius. In fact, the jaws of Colobus polykomos do not differ consistently from those of Procolobus badius in terms of biomechanical function. This apparent failure of mandibular morphology to reflect differences in diet and feeding behavior may be due to a variety of factors. We suspect that functional demands related to canine tooth support are contributing to obliteration of the expected biomechanical signal. Successful prediction of dietary effects on mandibular form requires consideration of competing structural and functional demands. The influence of diet on mandibular corporeal morphology is not equivalent across different primate species.