Ecological consequences of scaling of chew cycle duration and daily feeding time in primates

J Hum Evol. 2009 Jun;56(6):570-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.02.007. Epub 2009 May 17.


Feeding systems and behaviors must evolve to satisfy the metabolic needs of organisms. This includes modifications to feeding systems as body size and metabolic needs change. Using our own data and data from the literature, we examine how size-related changes in metabolic needs are met by size-related changes in daily feeding time, chew cycle duration, volume of food processed per chew, and daily food volume intake in primates. Increases in chew cycle duration with body mass in haplorhine primates are described by a simple power function (cycle time alpha body mass(0.181)). Daily feeding time increases with body mass when analyzed using raw data from the "tips" of the primate phylogenetic tree, but not when using phylogenetically independent contrasts. Whether or not daily feeding time remains constant or increases with body mass, isometry of ingested bite size and the slow rate of increase in chew cycle time with body size combine to allow daily ingested food volume to scale faster than predicted by metabolic rate. This positive allometry of daily ingested food volume may compensate for negative allometry of nutrient concentration in primate foods. Food material properties such as toughness and hardness have little impact on scaling of chew cycle durations, sequence durations, or numbers of chews in a sequence. Size-related changes in food processing abilities appear to accommodate size-related changes in food material properties, and primates may alter ingested bite sizes in order to minimize the impacts of food material properties on temporal variables such as chew cycle duration and chew sequence duration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Ecology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Mastication*
  • Primates / anatomy & histology
  • Primates / physiology*