Locomotor Diversification in New World Monkeys: Running, Climbing, or Clawing Along Evolutionary Branches


  • Dionisios Youlatos,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Biology, Thessaloniki, Greece
    • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Biology, Department of Zoology, GR-54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
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  • Jeff Meldrum

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho
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Modern platyrrhines exhibit a remarkable diversity of locomotor and postural adaptations, which evolved along multiple trajectories since the initial immigration to the island continent of South America. We trace this diversification by reviewing the available paleontological and neontological data for postcranial morphology and ecological adaptation. Fossil platyrrhines are notably diverse, from the Oligocene Branisella, to the varied Patagonian early Miocene quadurpedal-leaping and quadrupedal-climbing fossils of disputed affinities, on through the rich middle Miocene Colombian quadurpedal-leaping forms. More recent taxa exhibit even more derived positional patterns, from the largest suspensory atelids in Pleistocene Brazil, to the remarkable Antillean radiation with suspensory forms and also semiterrestrial species, with postcranial morphology convergent on some Old World monkeys. Field studies of positional behavior of modern platyrrhines set the framework for a spectrum of locomotor adaptations. Central within this spectrum is a cluster of medium-sized species with generalized locomotion (quadrupedal-leaping). At opposite poles lie the more derived conditions: large-bodied species exhibiting locomotor specializations for climbing-suspension; small-bodied species exhibiting adaptations for claw climbing and leaping. This behavior-based spectrum of locomotor diversification is similarly evident in a morphology-based pattern, that is, that produced by the shape of the talus. The implications of the record of platyrrhine postcranial evolution for the competing hypotheses of platyrrhine phylogenetic patterns, the “long lineage hypothesis” and the “stem platyrrhine hypothesis,” are considered. Anat Rec, , 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.