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

Appearance of the modern baboon, Papio hamadryas, in the Plio-Pleistocene fossil record: Evidence from South Africa


1Department of Anthropology, Hunter College of the City University of New York, 2PhD Program in Anthropology, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 3New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, (NYCEP), 4Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 5Department of Anthropology, Lehman College of the City University of New York

Thursday 11:45-12:00, Ballroom C Add to calendar

Savannah baboons, Papio hamadryas, are among the most successful extant primates, with a minimum of six recognizable populations/subspecies spread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Their presence in the fossil record, however, remains unclear. There are three early fossil forms in South Africa that have been argued to be members of the genus Papio. P. izodi, from Taung and Sterkfontein, retains many primitive features and is distinct from modern P. hamadryas. Both P. h. robinsoni and P. h. angusticeps, however, have at times been considered as subspecies of the extant species. Because of their derived appearance, P. h. angusticeps and P. h. robinsoni have often been used as important biochronological markers for the Plio-Pleistocene sites at which they are found. The two species have even been suggested to co-occur at Kromdraai and Coopers.

Here, we reexamined P. h. robinsoni and P. h. angusticeps with emphasis on their distinguishing features and distribution. We find that P. h. robinsoni and P. h. angusticeps are distinct in a number of cranial features (needed for definitive identification) but overlap in dental size. No diagnostic crania suggest that the species co-occur. Dental variation at each site is comparable to that in extant P. h. ursinus, also suggesting that only one form of Papio is present at each. Papio h. robinsoni appears distinct from modern P. hamadryas subspecies in its combination of features while P. h. angusticeps might be included within one of the modern P. hamadryas varieties. These results have implications for South African Plio-Pleistocene biochronology.

This study was generously supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the University of Oregon, the PSC-CUNY faculty research award program, and NSF 0966166 (NYCEP IGERT).

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