Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 38–51 | Cite as

In and Out the Amazonia: Evolutionary Ecomorphology in Howler and Capuchin Monkeys

  • Carlo MeloroEmail author
  • Nilton Cáceres
  • Francesco Carotenuto
  • Jonas Sponchiado
  • Geruza Leal Melo
  • Federico Passaro
  • Pasquale Raia
Research Article


The impact of environmental variation on phenotypic diversification is one major issue in evolutionary studies. Environmental variation is thought to be a primary factor in evolution, especially at high latitudes. In contrast, tropical areas are traditionally viewed as the cradle where the long-term effects of biological interactions on phenotypic change reside. We analyse patterns of skull shape variation in two New World monkey groups: capuchins and howlers. These two monophyletic clades are exceptionally similar in terms of the geographic distribution of their species. Yet, their body size and diet are different: howler monkeys are large and almost exclusively folivorous, whereas capuchins are small omnivorous. We found that the size, and direction of vectors of phenotypic changes across South American biomes in those clades are not statistically different. This similarity persists after removing the strong impact of allometry in our data. Additionally, partial least squares and comparative analyses confirm that “allometry free” skull shape is influenced to the same set of environmental variables in both clades. This study remarks the paramount importance of both body size and environmental variation on phenotypic evolution.


Skull shape Climatic adaptation Partial least squares South America Amazon forest 



We are grateful curators and staff of the Museu Nacional (MNRJ) (J.A. de Oliveira and S.M. Vaz), Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi (MPEG) (S.M. Aguiar and J.S. Silva Jr.), Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo (MZUSP) (M. De Vivo and J.G. Barros), Museu de História Natural Capão da Imbuia (MHNCI) (G.M. SiqueiraTebet), Coleção Científica de Mastozoologia da UFPR (DZUP) (F.C. Passos and I.P. Bernardi), and Museu de CiênciasNaturais da Fundação Zoobotânica do Rio Grande do Sul (MCN/FZB) (L.S. Hoffmann) for the kindly authorization and support to specimens access. Senior author (Carlo Meloro) is currently supported by TEMASAV/DOTTORI DI RICERCA-ESPERTI/26, Francesco Carotenuto by the program FORGIARE V, and Nilton Cáceres by the “Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico” (CNPq) in Brazil (PDE process number 202267/2011-3).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOC 1108 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlo Meloro
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nilton Cáceres
    • 2
  • Francesco Carotenuto
    • 1
  • Jonas Sponchiado
    • 3
  • Geruza Leal Melo
    • 4
  • Federico Passaro
    • 1
  • Pasquale Raia
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraUniversità degli Studi di Napoli ‘Federico II’NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Laboratory of Ecology and Biogeography, CCNEFederal University of Santa MariaSanta MariaBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Programa de Pós-Graduaçao em Biodiversidade Animal, CCNEFederal University of Santa MariaSanta MariaBrazil
  4. 4.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Conservação, CCBSUniversidade Federal do Mato Grosso do SulCampo GrandeBrazil

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