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Keywords:

  • Tooth punctures;
  • Predation;
  • Oligocene;
  • Fayum;
  • Egypt

Abstract

Field studies of living primates have shown that primate predation is a rare event. This must also have been true for past primate communities. In the Fayum Oligocene of Egypt, specimens of all four species of Upper Fossil Wood Zone primates show evidence of tooth puncture marks. Of the four potential groups of primate predators–the snakes, the raptors, the crocodiles, and the primitive carnivores or creodonts–only the crocodiles and the creodonts could have made these puncture marks. When one compares the feeding habits of living crocodiles and mammalian carnivores with the evidence from the Fayum, it appears that the Fayum primates were preyed upon and/or scavenged by mammalian carnivore-like animals. The dismemberment of the Fayum primates by Oligocene predators indicates, in part, why the Fayum fossil material is rarely articulated. Bone damage by predators may well set limits on what bone associations can be discovered in the Fayum even before the bones are scattered and buried by depositional processes.