Cranial morphology of Aegyptopithecus and Tarsius and the question of the tarsier-anthropoidean clade

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Abstract

New crania of the Oligocene anthropoidean Aegyptopithecus provide a test of the hypothesized tarsier-anthropoidean clade. Three cranial characters shared by Tarsius and some modern anthropoideans (apical interorbital septum, postorbital septum, “perbullar” carotid pathway) were examined. 1) An apical interorbital septum is absent in Aegyptopithecus. A septum does occur in Galago senegalensis (Lorisidae) and Microcebus murinus (Cheirogaleidae), so the presence of a septum is not strong evidence favoring a tarsiiform-anthropoidean clade. 2) In Aegyptopithecus and other anthropoideans, the postorbital septum is formed mainly by a periorbital flange of the zygomatic that extends medially from the lateral orbital margin onto or near the braincase. The postorbital plate of Tarsius is formed by frontal and alisphenoid flanges that extend laterally from the braincase to the zygomatic's frontal process, which is not broader than the postorbital bars of other prosimians. Periorbital flanges evolved in Tarsius for support or protection of the enormous eyes, as suggested by the occurrence of maxillary and frontal flanges that cup portions of the eye but do not separate it from temporal muscles. 3) The internal carotid artery of Aegyptopithecus enters the bulla posteriorly and crosses the anteroventral part of the promontorium. The tympanic cavity was probably separated from the anteromedial cavity by a septum stretching from the carotid channel to the ventrolateral bullar wall. In Tarsius, the carotid pathway is prepromontorial, and a septum stretches from the carotid channel to the posteromedial bullar wall. Quantitative analyses indicate that anterior carotid position has evolved because of erect head posture. The cranium of Oligocene anthropoideans thus provides no support for the hypothesized tarsier-anthropoidean clade.

Ancillary