Taxonomic Implications of Molar Morphology Variability in Capuchins

Abstract

Tooth morphology has been widely used to infer taxonomic affinities. Both morphological and genetic analyses have revealed significant differences among capuchins, suggesting that two distinct monophyletic groups exist: the gracile capuchins (Cebus) and the robust capuchins (Sapajus). We developed a geometric morphometrics (GM) model to determine if the two groups also show distinct molar shapes and to explore the influence of size, phylogeny, and biogeography in shaping molar morphology. We characterized first and second molar crown shape variability in seven species representative of the two genera (Cebus albifrons, C. olivaceus, Sapajus apella, S. robustus, S. libidinosus, S. nigritus, and S. xanthosternos), using two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) GM. The results showed that 2D GM discriminated the two groups better than 3D GM, possibly because it accounted for cusp position and crown contour, but not cusp height, which may be a useful trait for inferring adaptive foraging ecology but presents a risk of homoplasy. In addition, the presence of a phylogenetic signal in the first molar shape (2D) is likely to reflect similarity to the ancestral condition and provides evidence of gradual evolution of molar robustness in the robust clade. We suggest that the shape of the first molar is informative about phylogenetic affinities, whereas the shape of the second molar is more informative about biogeographic variability. However, molar shape similarities may be affected by convergent evolution, as environmental factors in different biogeographical regions may have a significant effect on molar morphology, as seen in the closely related capuchins.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Educación Cultura y Deporte via projects CGL2011-22999 and SGR2009-884. We thank the curators and institutions for facilitating our access to specimens and resources: Mario de Vivo and Juliana Gualda Barros (Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo) and Leandro de Oliveira Salles (Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro). We are especially grateful to Sergio Maia Vaz (Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro) for his support and help with data acquisition. We also thank Júlia Arias Martorell and Beatriz Gamarra for advice on mathematical and statistical issues. We are grateful to the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their editorial modifications and comments at various points in the manuscript’s development.

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Delgado, M.N., Galbany, J., Górka, K. et al. Taxonomic Implications of Molar Morphology Variability in Capuchins. Int J Primatol 36, 707–727 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-015-9850-4

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Keywords

  • Cebus
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Phylogeny
  • Sapajus
  • Tooth shape