Are we looking for loads in all the right places? New research directions for studying the masticatory apparatus of New World monkeys.

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New World monkeys display a wide range of masticatory apparatus morphologies related to their diverse diets and feeding strategies. While primatologists have completed many studies of the platyrrhine masticatory apparatus, particularly morphometric analyses, we collectively acknowledge key shortcomings in our understanding of the function and evolution of the platyrrhine feeding apparatus. Our goal in this contribution is to review several recent, and in most cases ongoing, efforts to address some of the deficits in our knowledge of how the platyrrhine skull is loaded during feeding. We specifically consider three broad research areas: (1) in vivo physiological studies documenting mandibular bone strains during feeding, (2) metric analyses assessing musculoskeletal functional morphology and performance, as well as (3) the initiation of a physiological ecology of feeding that measures in vivo masticatory mechanics in a natural environment. We draw several conclusions from these brief reviews. First, we need better documentation of in vivo strain patterns in the platyrrhine skull during feeding given their empirical role in developing adaptive hypotheses explaining masticatory apparatus form. Second, the greater accuracy of new technologies, such as CT scanning, will allow us to better describe the functional consequences of jaw form. Third, performance studies are generally lacking for platyrrhine jaws, muscles, and teeth and offer exciting avenues for linking form to feeding behavior and diet. Finally, attempts to bridge distinct research agendas, such as collecting in vivo physiological data during feeding in natural environments, present some of the greatest opportunities for novel insights into platyrrhine feeding biology.





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Vinyard, CJ, AB Taylor, MF Teaford, KE Glander, MJ Ravosa, JB Rossie, TM Ryan, SH Williams, et al. (2011). Are we looking for loads in all the right places? New research directions for studying the masticatory apparatus of New World monkeys. Anat Rec (Hoboken), 294(12). pp. 2140–2157. 10.1002/ar.21512 Retrieved from

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Andrea Beth Taylor

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Feeding behavior and diet are two of the most important factors influencing the evolution of behavior and morphology in humans and nonhuman primates. Variation in such parameters as body size, life history, metabolic rate, and brain size, can all be linked to some extent to the ability of animals to acquire, process, and consume resources. Shifts in feeding behavior and diet also provide the evolutionary context for a variety of morphological changes in the jaws, face, and teeth. This is my area of research - the evolution of craniofacial form in humans and other primates as it relates to feeding behavior and the biomechanical demands of diet. I rely on a variety of primate models and methodological approaches to investigate the mechanisms that influence musculoskeletal form and function, and to link masticatory form and function with performance in living and extinct species. I collaborate extensively with other functional morphologists, experimental biologists, and primatologists and provide research and training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. In collaboration with Dr. Christopher Vinyard (NEOMED), we have been investigating the functional correlates of gape and muscle force production in primates (funded by the National Science Foundation BCS 0452160, BCS 0833394, BCS 0635649 and the National Skeletal Muscle Research Center R24-HD 050837-01). This work is informing our understanding of how jaw muscles are structured to meet the mechanical demands of diverse diets, how their bony and muscular systems function together, and how mechanical trade-offs are met. With Dr. Callum Ross (University of Chicago), we are currently investigating the scaling of primate feeding systems, integrating kinematic, morphological, and experimental approaches to test biomechanical models of the scaling of chew cycle during in primates (funded by the National Science Foundation BCS 0962677). In a related area of research, I am collaborating with colleagues in the DPT Program and in Pediatrics to investigate the effects of exercise on muscle fiber architecture and performance in a Pompe mouse model (Funded by the National Skeletal Muscle Research Center R24-HD050837).


Kenneth Earl Glander

Professor Emeritus of Evolutionary Anthropology

Primate ecology and social organization: the interaction between feeding patterns and social structure; evolutionary development of optimal group size and composition; factors affecting short and long-term demographic changes in stable groups; primate use of regenerating forests.

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