Author(s): Soligo C, Smaers JB
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Abstract Ecomorphology - the characterisation of the adaptive relationship between an organism's morphology and its ecological role - has long been central to theories of the origin and early evolution of the primate order. This is exemplified by two of the most influential theories of primate origins: Matt Cartmill's Visual Predation Hypothesis, and Bob Sussman's Angiosperm Co-Evolution Hypothesis. However, the study of primate origins is constrained by the absence of data directly documenting the events under investigation, and has to rely instead on a fragmentary fossil record and the methodological assumptions inherent in phylogenetic comparative analyses of extant species. These constraints introduce particular challenges for inferring the ecomorphology of primate origins, as morphology and environmental context must first be inferred before the relationship between the two can be considered. Fossils can be integrated in comparative analyses and observations of extant model species and laboratory experiments of form-function relationships are critical for the functional interpretation of the morphology of extinct species. Recent developments have led to important advancements, including phylogenetic comparative methods based on more realistic models of evolution, and improved methods for the inference of clade divergence times, as well as an improved fossil record. This contribution will review current perspectives on the origin and early evolution of primates, paying particular attention to their phylogenetic (including cladistic relationships and character evolution) and environmental (including chronology, geography, and physical environments) contextualisation, before attempting an up-to-date ecomorphological synthesis of primate origins. © 2016 Anatomical Society.
This article was published in J Anat
and referenced in Journal of Primatology