• Sexual dimorphism;
  • Eocene primates;
  • Adapidae;
  • Adapis;
  • Phyletic dwarfing


Adapis is one of the best known lemuriform fossil primates. Quantitative analysis of all well-preserved crania of Adapis magnus (n = 8) and Adapis parisiensis (n = 12) together with maxillary and mandibular dentitions preserving canines corroborates Stehlin's hypothesis that Adapis was sexually dimorphic. Males are from 13% to 16% larger than females in cranial length, corresponding to a weight dimorphism estimated at 44% to 56%, and have relatively broader skulls with more prominent sagittal and nuchal crests. Canine dimorphism ranges from 13% to 19%, which is equal to or only slightly greater than that expected as a result of body size dimorphism (i.e., relative canine dimorphism is slight or nonexistent). By comparison with living primates, the observed body size dimorphism in Adapis implies a polygynous breeding system. Cebus apella is a diurnal arboreal living primate with moderate body size dimorphism and slight relative canine dimorphism and one can speculate that Adapis lived in polygynous multimale troops of moderate size like those of C. appella. Adapis extends the geological history of sexual dimorphism and polygyny in primates back to the Eocene. Extant lemuriform primates are generally not dimorphic or polygynous and they clearly do not adequately represent the range of social adaptations present in Eocene primates. The evolutionary lineage from Adapis magnus to Adapis parisiensis exhibits reduction in body size and in relative canine size, and phyletic dwarfing in Adapis is possibly an adaptive response to increasing climatic seasonality and environmental instability in the late Eocene and early Oligocene.