Functional Morphology of Anterior Teeth

Few fruits with peels occur in Madagascar forests, so the correlation between incisor morphology and fruit preparation in anthropoids observed by Hylander (1975) is not found to the same extent in lemurs. Though some folivorous lemurs have reduced upper incisors, the largest incisors are found in exudate feeders, not frugivores.

The upper incisors are reduced or absent in folivorous lemurs (with the exception of the indriids) to form a complex with the mandibular toothcomb that resembles an ungulatelike browsing pad (Avis, 1961). In Phaner and Allocebus the incisors are enlarged, presumably to work in concert with the toothcomb for exudate feeding (Martin, 1972). This condition is further elaborated in Daubentonia, where the upper and lower anterior teeth have been reduced to a single tooth on each side (Figure 4). Aye-ayes use these teeth to scrape off resistant fruit pulp and gouge dead wood in their search for insect larvae (Erickson, 1994; Iwano and Iwakawa, 1988; Kitko et al., 1996).

In the HHapalemur species, the canine is shorter and more robust than in other lemurids. This, coupled with the short P2, is probably related to the stereotypical harvesting behavior that these species employ when feeding on bamboo shoots, in which a shoot is pulled across the mouth behind the canines to liberate it from its sheath (Milton, 1978). H. simus also uses its stout upper canine to puncture bamboo culm preparatory to stripping it (Yamashita et al., 2004). This tooth is often worn in older individuals (NY, personal observation).

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