The frugivorous insectivores? Functional morphological analysis of molar topography for inferring diet in extant treeshrews (Scandentia)

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>The ecology, and particularly the diet, of treeshrews (order Scandentia) is poorly understood compared to that of their close relatives, the primates. This stems partially from treeshrews having fast food transit times through the gut, meaning fecal and stomach samples only represent a small portion of the foodstuffs consumed in a given day. Moreover, treeshrews are difficult to observe in the wild, leading to a lack of observational data in the literature. Although treeshrews are mixed feeders, consuming both insects and fruit, it is currently unknown how the relative importance of these food types varies across Scandentia. Previous study of functional dental morphology has provided an alternative means for understanding the diet of living euarchontans. We used dental topographic metrics to quantify aspects of functional dental morphology in a large sample of treeshrews (n = 58). We measured relief index, Dirichlet normal energy, and three-dimensional orientation patch count rotated, which quantify crown relief, occlusal curvature, and complexity, respectively. Our results suggest that treeshrews exhibit dental morphology consistent with high levels of insectivory relative to other euarchontans. They also suggest that taxa such as Dendrogale melanura and Tupaia belangeri appear to be best suited to insectivory, whereas taxa such as T. palawanensis and T. gracilis appear to be best adapted to frugivory. Our results suggest that Ptilocercus lowii is characterized by a dentition better adapted to insectivory than the early primate Purgatorius. If P. lowii represents a good modern analogue for primitive euarchontans, this contrast would support models of primate origins that include a shift to greater frugivory.</jats:p>





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Selig, KR, EJ Sargis and MT Silcox (2019). The frugivorous insectivores? Functional morphological analysis of molar topography for inferring diet in extant treeshrews (Scandentia). Journal of Mammalogy, 100(6). pp. 1901–1917. 10.1093/jmammal/gyz151 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Keegan Rayne Selig

Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.