Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The competitive edge: Dietary competition played a key role in the evolution of early primates

01.08.2018

Since Darwin first laid out the basic principles of evolution by means of natural selection, the role of competition for food as a driving force in shaping and shifting a species' biology to outcompete its adversaries has played center stage. So important is the notion of competition between species, that it is viewed as a key selective force that resulted in the split of the lineage leading to modern humans from that of our early ape ancestors.

The earliest true primates, called "euprimates," lived about 55 million years ago across what is now North America. Two major fossil euprimate groups existed at this time: the lemur-like adapids and the tarsier-like omomyids. Dietary competition with other similarly adapted mammals was presumably equally critical in the origin and diversification of these two groups. Though it's been hinted at, the exact role of dietary competition and overlapping food resources in early adapid and omomyid evolution has never been directly tested.


Three models of niche competition between euprimates and non-euprimate mammals. Non-euprimates thrived across North America prior to euprimate arrival ~55 Ma (large tree, left). After euprimate arrival (center column), these two groups could have: occupied separate niches with no competition (top row, right); occupied the same niche with one group ultimately displacing the other to reduce competition (middle row, right); or coexisted with minimal competition (bottom row, right).

Credit: Laura Stroik and Gary T. Schwartz

New research published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B -Biological Sciences led by Laura K. Stroik, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Grand Valley State University, and Gary T. Schwartz, associate professor and research scientist at Arizona State University's Institute of Human Origins, confirms the critical role that dietary adaptations played in the survival and diversification of North American euprimates.

"Understanding how complex food webs are structured and the intensity of competition over shared food resources is difficult enough to probe in living communities, let alone for communities that shared the same landscape nearly 55 million years ago," said Stroik.

The researchers utilized the latest in digital imaging and microCT scanning on more than 350 fossil mammal teeth from geological deposits in North America. They sought to quantify the 3D surface anatomy of molars belonging to extinct representatives of rodents, marsupials, and insectivores - all of which were found within the same geological deposits as the euprimates and were thus likely real competitors.

The high-resolution scans allowed them to capture and quantify details of how sharp, cresty, or pointy the teeth were. In particular, they looked at molars, or the teeth at the back of the mouth, useful in pulverizing and crushing food or prey. The relative degree of molar sharpness is directly linked to the broad menu of dietary items consumed by each species.

Stroik and Schwartz used these aspects of molar anatomy to compute patterns of dietary overlap across some key fossil groups through time. These results were then weighed against predictions from three models of how species compete with one another drawn from the world of theoretical ecology. The signal was clear: lineages belonging to the adapids largely survived and diversified without facing competition for food. The second major group, the omomyids, had to sustain periods of intensive competition with at least one contemporaneous mammal group. As omomyids persisted into more recent geological deposits, it is clear that they evolved adaptive solutions that provided them with the ability to compete and were usually victorious.

"The results showed adapids and omomyids faced different competitive scenarios when they originated in North America," said Stroik.

"Part of what makes our story unique is that for the first time we compared these fossil euprimates to a range of potential competitors from across a diverse group of mammals living right alongside adapids and omomyids, not just to other euprimates," said Schwartz. "Doing so allowed us to reconstruct a far greater swath of the ecological landscape for these important early primate relatives than has ever been attempted previously."

The key advance of this new research is the demonstration that diet did in fact play a fundamental role in the establishment, and continued success, of euprimates within the North American mammalian paleocommunity. An exciting outcome is the development of a new quantitative toolkit to diagnose patterns of dietary competition in past communities. This will now allow them to explore the role that diet and competition played in how some of these fossil euprimates continued to evolve and diversify to give rise to living lemurs and all other higher primates.

Media Contact

Dottie Barnes
barnesdo@gvsu.edu
616-331-2953

 @GV_Now

http://www.gvsu.edu 

Dottie Barnes | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: dietary adaptations ecology food resources landscape primates

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New measure for the wellbeing of populations could replace Human Development Index
07.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Because not only arguments count
30.10.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: (Re)solving the jet/cocoon riddle of a gravitational wave event

An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has combined radio telescopes from five continents to prove the existence of a narrow stream of material, a so-called jet, emerging from the only gravitational wave event involving two neutron stars observed so far. With its high sensitivity and excellent performance, the 100-m radio telescope in Effelsberg played an important role in the observations.

In August 2017, two neutron stars were observed colliding, producing gravitational waves that were detected by the American LIGO and European Virgo detectors....

Im Focus: Light from a roll – hybrid OLED creates innovative and functional luminous surfaces

Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.

The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...

Im Focus: Regensburg physicists watch electron transfer in a single molecule

For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.

The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...

Im Focus: University of Konstanz gains new insights into the recent development of the human immune system

Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens

Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...

Im Focus: Transformation through Light

Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light

When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Global Legal Hackathon at HAW Hamburg

11.02.2019 | Event News

The world of quantum chemistry meets in Heidelberg

30.01.2019 | Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

JILA researchers make coldest quantum gas of molecules

22.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Understanding high efficiency of deep ultraviolet LEDs

22.02.2019 | Materials Sciences

Russian scientists show changes in the erythrocyte nanostructure under stress

22.02.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>