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

Primate paleocommunities in the early Miocene of Africa: Why are apes and monkeys so rarely found together?


Department of Anatomy, Midwestern University - Glendale, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Saturday 4:15-4:30, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Monkeys dominate modern African primate communities while apes are species poor. However, in the early Miocene when modern catarrhine apes and monkeys first appear apes were very diverse while monkeys were not speciose. New fossil discoveries and recent changes in our understanding of ape and monkey systematics allow for more critical examination of early Miocene diversity. Comparisons among localities provide information about the factors that lead to this pattern. This project summarizes the primate communities of early Miocene localities and examines the taxonomic breakdown of each group at each site. Comparisons among the major localities are used to examine taxonomic diversity, habitat distributions and regional biogeography. Our data indicate changes throughout the early Miocene. In the earliest part of the early Miocene apes are diverse while monkeys are very rare and cannot be confidently assigned to any genus. Later in the early Miocene monkeys are more taxonomically diverse (Noropithecus, Prohylobates, Zaltanpithecus) and are found in woodland and more open habitat localities from the Turkana region and into North Africa, where they are unassociated with apes. Apes are found from Turkana and farther south in woodland and forest habitats but slightly decline in diversity. By the middle Miocene, apes continue to decline in diversity while monkeys (Victoriapithecus) appear farther south together with apes. Thus, it appears that monkeys and apes occupied different habitats and possibly evolved in slightly different regions of Africa. Southbound dispersion of monkeys appears associated with the opening of habitats further south and the decline of forest-adapted apes.

This project was funded by the Leakey Foundation and an intermural research grant from Midwestern University

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