Durophagy among white-eyelid mangabeys
White-eyelid mangabeys are known for their durophagous diet, which means they rely a lot on very hard foods. Their teeth are adapted for this type of diet and they have, for example, some of the thickest dental enamel of all extant primates, as well as enlarged incisors and special formed premolars molars. Sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys) at Taï in Ivory Coast are known to eat a lot of seeds of a tree called Sacoglottis gabonensis. Often the group can be heard from a distance when cracking open these hard seeds. The mangabeys crush the seeds with their postcanine teeth, while chimpanzees use tools to access them. Red-capped mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus) at Sette Cama in Gabon also rely on Sacoglottis seeds, but their diet includes a more unusual food too. Red-capped mangabeys at this site use their canine teeth to open the shell of crabs (Cardisoma armatum) which they find near the coast. The video below illustrates durophagy among agile mangabeys (Cercocebus agilis) at Bai Hokou in the Central African Republic. In February-March 2010 this group frequently visited a patch in the forest where a lot of Strychnos trees bore large fruits with a hard outer layer. Using their incisor teeth, the mangabeys gnaw through this tough layer to get to the nutritious pulp inside. This group of, at that time, 135 individuals was normally constantly moving, but could stay for several hours at this patch. It is a special moment when more than one hundred mangabeys are gnawing around you!
This photo shows the skull of an agile mangabey (Cercocebus agilis) at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. Note the enlarged incisor teeth. White-eyelid mangabeys use different teeth to manipulate different hard-object foods.
Written by Lieven Devreese on November 21, 2013.
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