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New craniodental fossils of papionin monkeys from Cooper's D, South Africa


Correspondence to: Kaila Folinsbee, Department of Anthropology, Iowa State University, 324 Curtiss Hall, Ames, IA 50011, USA. E-mail:


Papionin monkey fossils are common in the Plio-Pleistocene aged karst cave deposits northwest of Johannesburg in South Africa. These deposits have yielded important primate and other vertebrate fauna since their discovery in the early part of the 20th century. In this article, we describe new primate cranial and dental specimens from excavations at the site of Cooper's D in the Sterkfontein Valley that date to around 1.5 million years ago. Unlike other localities in southern Africa, most of the new fossils are referred to Theropithecus oswaldi oswaldi, an extinct gramnivorous monkey related to the living gelada. Diagnostic features of T. o. oswaldi crania and teeth include large, thickly enameled molars with tall, columnar cusps, and high molar relief, an upright mandibular ramus, postorbital constriction, and anterior fusion of temporal lines. Also present in the new sample are teeth referred to Papio sp., which show low crowned bunodont molars, and a number of indeterminate papionin teeth and skull fragments. The presence of T. o. oswaldi at Cooper's D extends the list of known localities where the taxon is found, and may indicate the presence of an open, grassland environment in the area during the early Pleistocene. The abundance of theropith fossils at Cooper's suggests that Papio was not consistently the most common papionin in southern Africa over the past three million years. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:613–629, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.