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The Effects of Feeding Strategies and Food Mechanics on the Ontogeny of Masticatory Function in the Cebus libidinosus Cranium Open Access

Clarifying the relationships between feeding ecology and masticatory morphology requires an understanding of the mechanical demands foods place on the masticatory system as well as the behavioral strategies individuals employ to mitigate those demands. The robust masticatory morphology of tufted capuchins, such as Cebus libidinosus, characterizes animals that consume mechanically challenging foods. However little is known about the ontogeny of feeding and food mechanics in tufted capuchins and how changes in feeding behavior and dietary demand relate to changes in the masticatory system. As a step toward elucidating these relationships, this study investigated the following questions: 1) do the diets of juveniles and adults differ in terms of mechanical demand? 2) do juveniles and adults employ the same behaviors to process foods? and 3) how do changes in cranial shape influence biomechanical performance in adults and juveniles? To address these questions, data on feeding behaviors and food mechanics were collected from two wild groups of C. libidinosus during the dry season and feeding performance was compared in an ontogenetic series of C. libidinosus crania using finite element analysis. Results show that the toughness and Young's modulus values of foods were comparable between juveniles and adults, but younger individuals required longer ingestion durations and utilized different ingestive behaviors than adults. The diminished feeding performance of crania from younger individuals relative to that of the adult provides a functional explanation for age-related variation in feeding behaviors. The research presented in this dissertation highlights the importance of behavioral strategies when processing mechanically demanding foods and has implications for relating masticatory form to diet in primate taxa.

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