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

Journal Article (Journal Article)

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 diffiocult 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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Selig, KR; Sargis, EJ; Silcox, MT

Published Date

  • December 19, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 100 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1901 - 1917

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1545-1542

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-2372

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/jmammal/gyz151

Citation Source

  • Scopus