Dental use wear in extinct lemurs: evidence of diet and niche differentiation.


Journal Article

A new technique for molar use-wear analysis is applied to samples of all 16 species of extinct lemurs with known dentitions, as well as to a large comparative sample of extant primates. This technique, which relies on the light refractive properties of wear pits and scratches as seen under a standard stereoscopic microscope, has shown itself to be effective in distinguishing the diets of ungulates and extant primates. We draw dietary inferences for each of the 16 extinct lemur species in our database. There is a strong phylogenetic signal, with the Palaeopropithecidae showing use-wear signatures similar to those of the Indriidae; extinct lemurids (Pachylemur spp.) showing striking similarities to extant lemurids (except Hapalemur spp.); and Megaladapis showing similarities to Lepilemur spp. Only the Archaeolemuridae have dietary signatures unlike those of any extant lemurs, with the partial exception of Daubentonia. We conclude that the Archaeolemuridae were hard-object feeders; the Palaeopropithecidae were seed predators, consuming a mixed diet of foliage and fruit to varying degrees; Pachylemur was a fruit-dominated mixed feeder, but not a seed predator; and all Megaladapis were leaf browsers. There is no molar use wear evidence that any of the extinct lemurs relied on terrestrial foods (C4 grasses, tubers, rhizomes). This has possible implications for the role of the disappearance of wooded habitats in the extinction of lemurs.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Godfrey, LR; Semprebon, GM; Jungers, WL; Sutherland, MR; Simons, EL; Solounias, N

Published Date

  • September 2004

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 47 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 145 - 169

PubMed ID

  • 15337413

Pubmed Central ID

  • 15337413

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-8606

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0047-2484

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jhevol.2004.06.003


  • eng