Presence of the Maxillary Sinus in Fossil Colobinae (Cercopithecoides williamsi) from South Africa



Extant cercopithecoid monkeys, except macaques, are distinguished among primates by their lack of paranasal pneumatization, including the maxillary sinus (MS). Analysis of this structure, widespread among Eutheria, suggests that its loss occurred in the cercopithecoid common ancestor; thus, the presence of the MS in macaques is not strictly homologous to that in other primates. CT analysis of the fossil species Victoriapithecus macinnesi supports this view, demonstrating the lack of the MS in this stem cercopithecoid. Recent evidence, however, has documented the presence of the MS in extinct cercopithecoids from the late Miocene and Pliocene. This study reports on CT examination of two fossil crania attributed to Cercopithecoides williamsi from South Africa, dated in the range, 3.0–1.5 Ma. BF 42a is a complete cranium from Bolts Farm; MP113 is an intact facial skeleton, including the anterior cranial vault, from the Makapansgat Limeworks. Both demonstrate MS presence, unknown in extant colobines and unexpected in most cercopithecoid monkeys. The relative size of the MS of BF 42a is similar to that of extant tropical and subtropical macaques. The presence of sinuses in several extinct colobines suggests that our understanding of the evolutionary history of these primates, and of the MS, is incomplete, and that other fossil cercopithecoids should be examined for this feature. The developmental plasticity exhibited in this feature, indicated by multiple loss and reemergence, provides further evidence that paranasal pneumatization has undergone a complex history of suppression and expression. Anat Rec, 291:1499–1505, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.