Reconstructing the Locomotor Repertoire of Protopithecus brasiliensis. II. Forelimb Morphology


  • Lauren B. Halenar

    Corresponding author
    1. The Graduate Center, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology (NYCEP), New York, New York
    • The Graduate Center, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016.
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The majority of previous publications have suggested that the large-bodied subfossil Protopithecus brasiliensis was a suspensory ateline with a locomotor repertoire similar to that of extant Ateles and Brachyteles. This is unexpected, as the cranial morphology of Protopithecus is very similar to Alouatta, a genus usually classified as a deliberate quadrupedal climber. Complicating matters further, as Protopithecus is twice as large as Ateles and Brachyteles, its ability to be as suspensory as those two genera is suspect and a terrestrial component of the locomotor repertoire has also been hypothesized. The forelimbs of Protopithecus, while relatively elongated as would be expected in a suspensory animal, are also quite robust and show several adaptations for climbing. To test these hypotheses about the fossil locomotor repertoire, three-dimensional geometric morphometric techniques were used to quantify the shapes of the fossil distal humerus and proximal ulna and then compare them to a broad sample of extant primates with varying body sizes and locomotor patterns. Results indicate that Protopithecus is similar to Ateles and Brachyteles in terms of its forelimb joint surface morphology; however, the overall locomotor repertoire of the fossil is reconstructed as more flexible to include forelimb suspension, climbing, and potentially some terrestrial ground use. The combination of suspensory locomotion and quadrupedal climbing supported here indicates the beginnings of the evolutionary transition from a more acrobatic style of locomotion in the last common ancestor of alouattins and atelins to the current pattern of howler locomotion. Anat Rec, , 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.