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

Proconsul's basicranial morphology and its implications for understanding Catarrhine evolution


Anthropology, New York University, Anthropology, New York Consortium of Evolutionary Primatology

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Basicranial morphology, particularly in the region of the petrous temporal, indicates that Proconsul is a stem catarrhine. Thirty characters from the temporal and occipital region were coded for 10 species of extant anthropoids, as well as for Proconsul and Victoriapithecus. Both metric and non-metric characters were used. Metric data were analyzed using two separate methods. First they were discretized, as is standard practice for dealing with continuous characters in phylogenetic analyses, using Simons’ homogeneous subset method. The second analysis applied Goloboff’s method, which avoids discretization by treating continuous characters as additive and ordered, allowing direct application of Farris’ algorithm. Although the characters included in the phylogenetic analysis were not able to produce a fully resolved anthropoid tree, consistent with anthropoid relationships derived from molecular data, they were able to accurately determine the relationships between major clades. The results of this study show that Proconsul does not express any synapomorphies in its basicranium that would link it with crown Hominoidea. In addition, a principal components analysis demonstrates that Proconsul is phenetically similar to Victoriapithecus, grouping Proconsul with cercopithecoids rather than hominoids. Not only, as has been observed in the past, is Proconsul postcranially ‘monkey-like’, but it also retains a primitive ‘monkey-like’ morphology in the basicranium. These findings highlight the importance of additional detailed and fine-scale phylogenetic analyses to help resolve the question of Proconsul’s phylogenetic position within Catarrhini.

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