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

Christopher J. Vinyard, Andrea B. Taylor, Mark F. Teaford, Kenneth E. Glander, Matthew J. Ravosa, James B. Rossie, Timothy M. Ryan, Susan H. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2140-2157
Number of pages18
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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