Evidence for dietary niche separation based on infraorbital foramen size variation among subfossil lemurs

Magdalena N. Muchlinski, Laurie R. Godfrey, Kathleen M. Muldoon, Lydia Tongasoa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The size of the infraorbital foramen (IOF) has been used in drawing both phylogenetic and ecological inferences regarding fossil taxa. Within the order Primates, frugivores have relatively larger IOFs than folivores or insectivores. This study uses relative IOF size in lemurs to test prior trophic inferences for subfossil lemurs and to explore the pattern of variation within and across lemur families. The IOFs of individuals belonging to 12 extinct lemur species were measured and compared to those of extant Malagasy strepsirhines. Observations matched expectations drawn from more traditional approaches (e.g. dental morphology and microwear, stable isotope analysis) remarkably well. We confirm that extinct lemurs belonging to the families Megaladapidae and Palaeopropithecidae were predominantly folivorous and that species belonging to the genus Pachylemur (Lemuridae) were frugivores. Very high values for relative IOF area in Archaeolemur support frugivory but are also consistent with omnivory, as certain omnivores use facial touch cues while feeding. These results provide additional evidence that the IOF can be used as an informative osteological feature in both phylogenetic and paleoecological interpretations of the fossil record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-345
Number of pages16
JournalFolia Primatologica
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Diet
  • Infraorbital foramen area
  • Madagascar
  • Paleoecology
  • Subfossil lemurs


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