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Linking morphology, performance, and habitat utilization: adaptation across biologically relevant 'levels' in tamarins.

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BACKGROUND: Biological adaptation manifests itself at the interface of different biologically relevant 'levels', such as ecology, performance, and morphology. Integrated studies at this interface are scarce due to practical difficulties in study design. We present a multilevel analysis, in which we combine evidence from habitat utilization, leaping performance and limb bone morphology of four species of tamarins to elucidate correlations between these 'levels'. RESULTS: We conducted studies of leaping behavior in the field and in a naturalistic park and found significant differences in support use and leaping performance. Leontocebus nigrifrons leaps primarily on vertical, inflexible supports, with vertical body postures, and covers greater leaping distances on average. In contrast, Saguinus midas and S. imperator use vertical and horizontal supports for leaping with a relatively similar frequency. S. mystax is similar to S. midas and S. imperator in the use of supports, but covers greater leaping distances on average, which are nevertheless shorter than those of L. nigrifrons. We assumed these differences to be reflected in the locomotor morphology, too, and compared various morphological features of the long bones of the limbs. According to our performance and habitat utilization data, we expected the long bone morphology of L. nigrifrons to reflect the largest potential for joint torque generation and stress resistance, because we assume longer leaps on vertical supports to exert larger forces on the bones. For S. mystax, based on our performance data, we expected the potential for torque generation to be intermediate between L. nigrifrons and the other two Saguinus species. Surprisingly, we found S. midas and S. imperator having relatively more robust morphological structures as well as relatively larger muscle in-levers, and thus appearing better adapted to the stresses involved in leaping than the other two. CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates the complex ways in which behavioral and morphological 'levels' map onto each other, cautioning against oversimplification of ecological profiles when using large interspecific eco-morphological studies to make adaptive evolutionary inferences.


Funder: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (1034)


Biomechanics, Field study, Integrative biology, Leaping behavior, Limb bones, Locomotion, Animals, Saguinus, Ecosystem, Adaptation, Biological

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BMC Ecol Evol

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Swiss National Science Foundation (TMPFP3_217022)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (NY 63/2-1)