Inferring Plio-Pleistocene southern African biochronology from facial affinities in Parapapio and other fossil papionins



Buried in the same South African cave deposits as Australopithecus, fossil papionins have been referred to Parapapio (Pp. whitei, Pp. broomi, Pp. jonesi, Pp. antiquus), Papio (P. izodi, P. angusticeps, P. h. robinsoni), Theropithecus (e.g., T. darti), Gorgopithecus, or Dinopithecus on the basis of postcanine tooth size and descriptive morphology of the muzzle. The morphological patterns of variation that these papionins demonstrate can help to place the Australopithecus fossils into a biochronological context and provide valuable information for reconstructing regional Plio-Pleistocene turnover. To document these patterns of variation across fossil-bearing sites, we explore morphometric affinities within Parapapio, and between Parapapio and other Plio-Pleistocene taxa (Dinopithecus ingens, Papio angusticeps, Papio izodi, and Theropithecus darti) by analyzing a sample of interlandmark distances derived from 3-D coordinate data of the most complete fossil papionin specimens available. Bivariate and multivariate analyses show that Pp. whitei exhibits as much variation between sites and between individuals as Pp. broomi and Pp. whitei combined. Diversity in Parapapio at Makapansgat and Sterkfontein may suggest substantial time depth to the caves. Theropithecus darti, Dinopithecus ingens, Papio angusticeps, Pp. whitei from Bolt's Farm (BF 43), and Pp. jonesi from Sterkfontein (STS 565) differ considerably from one another. Other Parapapio specimens across sites form a separate cluster with P. izodi from Taung, suggesting a Pliocene age for this site. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.