The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Dental microwear profilometry of African non-cercopithecoid catarrhines of the Early Miocene

BRIAN M. SHEARER1,2, PETER S. UNGAR3, KIERAN P. MCNULTY4, HOLLY M. DUNSWORTH5, WILLIAM E.H. HARCOURT-SMITH1,2,6,7 and MARK F. TEAFORD8.

1Department of Anthropology, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), 2NYCEP, The New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, 4Evolutionary Anthropology Lab, University of Minnesota, 5Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Rhode Island, 6Department of Anthropology, Lehman College CUNY, 7Division of Paleontology, The American Museum of Natural History, 8Department of Physical Therapy, High Point University

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The early Miocene of Kenya has yielded the remains of many important stem catarrhine species that provide a glimpse of the anthropoid primate radiation at a time of major faunal turnover in Africa. These taxa have been subject to innumerable studies, yet there is still no consensus on their diets. Here we report on an analysis of dental microwear textures of non-cercopithecoid catarrhines from the Early Miocene of Kenya. High-resolution casts were made of all molar specimens with undamaged occlusal surfaces at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi. Scanning confocal profilometry revealed 83 individuals with unobscured antemortem microwear of the genera Dendropithecus, Micropithecus, Limnopithecus, Proconsul, Kalepithecus, Nyanzapithecus, and Rangwapithecus. Scale-sensitive fractal analysis was used to generate texture attributes (complexity, anisotropy, scale of maximum complexity, textural fill volume, and heterogeneity of complexity) for each specimen, and the fossil taxa were compared using conservative non-parametric statistical tests. This study revealed no significant variation in microwear texture among the fossil taxa, which is consistent with results from a previous feature-based microwear study using smaller samples. This suggests the taxa often consumed foods with similar mechanical properties despite morphological differences. However, statistical analyses of microwear texture data do separate the Miocene fossil sample from several extant anthropoid primate genera such as Alouatta, Cebus, Cercocebus, Colobus, Presbytis, Semnopithecus, and Theropithecus. This suggests that the African non-cercopithecoid catarrhines of the Early Miocene had generalist diets and had not yet specialized to the degree of many modern taxa, despite variation in tooth form.

Supported by NSF 0852515 & 0333415.

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