An important component of digestive physiology involves ingesta mean retention time (MRT), which describes the time available for digestion. At least three different variables have been proposed to influence MRT in herbivorous mammals: body mass, diet type, and food intake (dry matter intake, DMI). To investigate which of these parameters influences MRT in primates, we collated data for 19 species from trials where both MRT and DMI were measured in captivity, and acquired data on the composition of the natural diet from the literature. We ran comparative tests using both raw species values and phylogenetically independent contrasts. MRT was not significantly associated with body mass, but there was a significant correlation between MRT and relative DMI (rDMI, g/kg(0.75)/d). MRT was also significantly correlated with diet type indices. Thus, both rDMI and diet type were better predictors of MRT than body mass. The rDMI-MRT relationship suggests that primate digestive differentiation occurs along a continuum between an "efficiency" (low intake, long MRT, high fiber digestibility) and an "intake" (high intake, short MRT, low fiber digestibility) strategy. Whereas simple-stomached (hindgut fermenting) species can be found along the whole continuum, foregut fermenters appear limited to the "efficiency" approach.