Food mobility and the evolution of grasping behaviour: a case study in strepsirrhine primates.
Manual grasping is widespread among tetrapods but is more prominent and dexterous in primates. Whether the selective pressures that drove the evolution of dexterous hand grasping involved the collection of fruit or predation on mobile insects remains an area of debate. One way to explore this question is to examine preferences for manual versus oral grasping of a moving object. Previous studies on strepsirrhines have shown a preference for oral grasping when grasping static food items and a preference for manual grasping when grasping mobile prey such as insects, but little is known about the factors at play. Using a controlled experiment with a simple and predictable motion of a food item, we tested and compared the grasping behaviours of 53 captive individuals belonging to 17 species of strepsirrhines while grasping swinging food items and static food items. The swinging motion increased the frequency of hand-use for all individuals. Our results provide evidence that the swinging motion of the food is a sufficient parameter to increase hand grasping in a wide variety of strepsirrhine primates. From an evolutionary perspective, this result gives some support to the idea that hand-grasping abilities evolved under selective pressure associated with the predation of food items in motion. Looking at a common grasping pattern across a large set of species, this study provides important insight into comparative approaches to understanding the evolution of the hand grasping of food in primates and potentially other tetrapod taxa.
Peckre, LR; Lowie, A; Brewer, D; Ehmke, E; Welser, K; Shaw, E; Wall, C; Pouydebat, E; Fabre, A-C
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