Chewing on different food types is a demanding biological function. The classic assumption in studying the shape of feeding apparatuses is that animals are what they eat, meaning that adaptation to different food items accounts for most of their interspecific variation. Yet, a growing body of evidence points against this concept. We use the primate mandible as a model structure to investigate the complex interplay among shape, size, diet, and phylogeny. We find a weak but significant impact of diet on mandible shape variation in primates as a whole but not in anthropoids and catarrhines as tested in isolation. These clades mainly exhibit allometric shape changes, which are unrelated to diet. Diet is an important factor in the diversification of strepsirrhines and platyrrhines and a phylogenetic signal is detected in all primate clades. Peaks in morphological disparity occur during the Oligocene (between 37 and 25 Ma) supporting the notion that an adaptive radiation characterized the evolution of South American monkeys. In all primate clades, the evolution of mandible size is faster than its shape pointing to a strong effect of allometry on ecomorphological diversification in this group. © 2015 The Society for the Study of Evolution.
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