Mimetic muscles in a despotic macaque (Macaca mulatta) differ from those in a closely related tolerant macaque (M. nigra)

Anne M. Burrows, Bridget M. Waller, Jérôme Micheletta

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Facial displays (or expressions) are a primary means of visual communication among conspecifics in many mammalian orders. Macaques are an ideal model among primates for investigating the co-evolution of facial musculature, facial displays, and social group size/behavior under the umbrella of “ecomorphology”. While all macaque species share some social behaviors, dietary, and ecological parameters, they display a range of social dominance styles from despotic to tolerant. A previous study found a larger repertoire of facial displays in tolerant macaque species relative to despotic species. The present study was designed to further explore this finding by comparing the gross morphological features of mimetic muscles between the Sulawesi macaque (Macaca nigra), a tolerant species, and the rhesus macaque (M. mulatta), a despotic species. Five adult M. nigra heads were dissected and mimetic musculature was compared to those from M. mulatta. Results showed that there was general similarity in muscle presence/absence between the species as well as muscle form except for musculature around the external ear. M. mulatta had more musculature around the external ear than M. nigra. In addition, M. nigra lacked a zygomaticus minor while M. mulatta is reported to have one. These morphological differences match behavioural observations documenting a limited range of ear movements used by M. nigra during facial displays. Future studies focusing on a wider phylogenetic range of macaques with varying dominance styles may further elucidate the roles of phylogeny, ecology, and social variables in the evolution of mimetic muscles within Macaca
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1324
JournalThe Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number10
Early online date14 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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