Author(s): Deane AS, Deane AS
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Abstract The early Miocene catarrhine fossil record of East Africa represents a diverse and extensive adaptive radiation. It is well accepted that these taxa encompass a dietary range similar to extant hominoids, in addition to some potentially novel dietary behaviour. There have been numerous attempts to infer diet for these taxa from patterns of dental allometry and incisor and molar microwear, however, morphometric analyses until now have been restricted to the post-canine dentition. It has already been demonstrated that given the key functional role of the incisors in pre-processing food items prior to mastication, there is a positive correlation between diet and incisal curvature (Deane, A.S., Kremer, E.P., Begun, D.R., 2005. A new approach to quantifying anatomical curvatures using High Resolution Polynomial Curve Fitting (HR-PCF). Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 128(3), 630-638.; Deane, A.S., 2007. Inferring dietary behaviour for Miocene hominoids: A high-resolution morphometric approach to incisal crown curvature. Ph.D. Dissertation. The University of Toronto.). This study seeks to re-examine existing dietary hypotheses for large-bodied early Miocene fossil catarrhines by contrasting the incisal curvature for these taxa with comparative models derived from prior studies of the correlation between extant hominoid incisor curvature and feeding behaviour. Incisor curvature was quantified for 78 fossil incisors representing seven genera, and the results confirm that early Miocene fossil catarrhines represent a dietary continuum ranging from more folivorous (i.e., Rangwapithecus) to more frugivorous (i.e., Proconsul) diets, as well as novel dietary behaviours that are potentially similar to extant ceboids (i.e., Afropithecus). Additionally, early Miocene fossil catarrhine incisors are less curved than extant hominoid incisors, indicating a general pattern of increasing mesio-distal and labial curvature through time. This pattern of morphological shifting is consistent with the Red Queen Effect (Van Valen, L., 1973. A new evolutionary law. Evol. Theory 1, 1-30), which predicts that taxa that are removed from one another by geological time, although potentially having similar diets, may exhibit differing degrees of a similar dietary adaptation (i.e., differing degrees of incisal curvature).
This article was published in J Hum Evol
and referenced in Immunogenetics: Open Access