The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Paralouatta, the Cuban enigma: evidence from craniodental morphology


1Department of Anthropology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, 3Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, 4Lehman College, CUNY at the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, 5Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, 6Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

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The origin and relationships of the Caribbean primates are one of the least understood aspects of platyrrhine evolution. This project addresses the paleobiology of Paralouatta, a genus found in Miocene-sub-recent deposits in Cuba. Originally this taxon was assigned to the Alouattini based on cranial synapomorphies, but more primitive aspects of the skull and dentition caused some authors to place Paralouatta and other Caribbean platyrrhines in a sister clade to Callicebus. New analyses of the cranium and dentition using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics support the original interpretation, but with some further caveats.

The craniodental morphology of Paralouatta was compared to a large sample of extant and extinct platyrrhines. The results of a principal components analysis group the Paralouatta cranial base with extant Alouatta, as both share an airorynchous face, vertically oriented occipital, and unflexed basicranium. As the cranial base is arguably the most derived portion of the Alouatta skeleton (due to the enlarged hyoid housed beneath it), the similarities described here between Paralouatta and the howler monkey strongly support their phylogenetic affinity.

Paralouatta does not, however, share dental characteristics with the crown alouattins. Overall, the fossil dentition is primitive with a lingual cingulum on the maxillary molars, a clearly delineated trigon, and basins of moderate size. In dietary reconstruction analyses, it groups with frugivorous primates, indicating that folivory may have evolved after Paralouatta broke with the lineage leading towards modern alouattins.

This study was partially funded by: NSF DDIG # 0925704 (LBH); NSF DDIG # 40761-0001 (SBC); Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (CGL2008-00325/BTE) and the Generalitat de Catalunya (2009 SGR 754 GRC, and BP-A 00226 to SA).

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