Using extant patterns of dental variation to identify species in the primate fossil record: a case study of middle Eocene Omomys from the Bridger Basin, southwestern Wyoming.
ABSTRACT Patterns of extant primate dental variation provide important data for interpreting taxonomic boundaries in fossil forms. Here I use dental data from several well-known living primates (as well as data from selected Eocene forms) to evaluate dental variation in Middle Eocene Omomys, the first North American fossil primate identified by paleontologists. Measurements were collected from a sample of 148 omomyid dental specimens recovered from Bridger B localities in the Bridger Basin, Wyoming. Most of these specimens have not previously been described. Nonmetric traits were also scored for this sample. Lower molar coefficients of variation range from 4.01 for M2 length (n = 80) to 6.73 for M3 talonid width (n = 57). All of the nonmetric traits scored exhibit less than 100% presence in the overall sample, including traits previously described as representative of Omomys (e.g., P4 metaconids present in 91%, n = 55; M2 pericones present in 80%, n = 15). Dental traits also vary in a set of spatially restricted localities from the same fossil horizon and in a separate, single fossil locality (DMNH 868, P4 metaconids present in 67%, n = 6). An increasing frequency in several premolar traits across time in these more restricted samples suggests an anagenetic change in Bridger B Omomys. However, this degree of morphological variability is consistent with that seen in extant primate species from single locations. Metric variation in this sample is comparable to that seen in other Eocene primates, such as new data presented here for the omomyid Arapahovius gazini from the Washakie Basin, southern Wyoming. Omomys metric variation is also comparable to that found in several samples of well-known extant primates from single localities (e.g., ring-tailed lemurs and gray-brown mouse lemurs). These metric data also correspond to the patterns of variability described in previously published studies of Omomyscarteri. In sum, a single species interpretation (O. carteri) for this new Bridger B Omomys sample from southern Wyoming is affirmed, and this study illustrates the usefulness of dental data from extant primates for evaluating primate fossil samples.
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ABSTRACT: The earliest euprimates to arrive in North America were larger-bodied notharctids and smaller-bodied omomyids. Through the Eocene, notharctids generally continued to increase in body size, whereas omomyids generally radiated within small- and increasingly mid-sized niches in the middle Eocene. This study examines the influence of changing body size and diet on the evolution of the lower fourth premolar in Eocene euprimates. The P4 displays considerable morphological variability in these taxa. Despite the fact that most studies of primate dental morphology have focused on the molars, P4 can also provide important paleoecological insights. We analyzed the P4 from 177 euprimate specimens, representing 35 species (11 notharctids and 24 omomyids), in three time bins of approximately equal duration: early Wasatchian, late Wasatchian, and Bridgerian. Two-dimensional surface landmarks were collected from lingual photographs, capturing important variation in cusp position and tooth shape. Disparity metrics were calculated and compared for the three time bins. In the early Eocene, notharctids have a more molarized P4 than omomyids. During the Bridgerian, expanding body size range of omomyids was accompanied by a significant increase in P4 disparity and convergent evolution of the semimolariform condition in the largest omomyines. P4 morphology relates to diet in early euprimates, although patterns vary between families. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:15-28, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.American Journal of Physical Anthropology 01/2014; 153(1):15-28. DOI:10.1002/ajpa.22387 · 2.51 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This study describes and tests a new method of calculating a shape metric known as the relief index (RFI) on lower second molars of extant euarchontan mammals, including scandentians (treeshrews), dermopterans (flying lemurs), and prosimian primates (strepsirhines and tarsiers). RFI is the ratio of the tooth crown three-dimensional area to two-dimensional planar area. It essentially expresses hypsodonty and complexity of tooth shape. Like other measurements of complexity, RFI ignores taxon-specific features, such as certain cusps and crests, which are usually considered in more traditional studies of tooth function. Traditional statistical analyses of the study sample show that RFI distinguishes taxa with differing amounts of structural carbohydrates in their diets, with frugivore/gramnivores being significantly lower in RFI than omnivores, and insectivores/folivores being significantly higher in RFI than the other two. Information on absolute size, or body mass, is needed to reliably parse out insectivores and folivores; however, if the study sample is limited to Primates, RFI alone distinguishes many folivores (lower) from insectivores (higher). Finally, phylogenetically independent contrasts of RFI and dietary preference are strongly correlated with one another, indicating that variance in RFI is better explained by dietary diversity than phylogenetic affinity in this sample. Because of the accuracy and phylogenetic insensitivity of the RFI among Euarchonta, this method can be applied to fossil primates and stem-primates (plesiadapiforms) and used to elucidate and compare their dietary preferences. Such comparisons are important for developing a more detailed view of primate evolution.Journal of Human Evolution 12/2008; 55(6-55):1118-1137. DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.08.002 · 3.87 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The oldest euprimates known from India come from the Early Eocene Cambay Formation at Vastan Mine in Gujarat. An Ypresian (early Cuisian) age of ∼53 Ma (based on foraminifera) indicates that these primates were roughly contemporary with, or perhaps predated, the India-Asia collision. Here we present new euprimate fossils from Vastan Mine, including teeth, jaws, and referred postcrania of the adapoids Marcgodinotius indicus and Asiadapis cambayensis. They are placed in the new subfamily Asiadapinae (family Notharctidae), which is most similar to primitive European Cercamoniinae such as Donrussellia and Protoadapis. Asiadapines were small primates in the size range of extant smaller bushbabies. Despite their generally very plesiomorphic morphology, asiadapines also share a few derived dental traits with sivaladapids, suggesting a possible relationship to these endemic Asian adapoids. In addition to the adapoids, a new species of the omomyid Vastanomys is described. Euprimate postcrania described include humeri, radii, femora, calcanei, and tali, most of which show typical notharctid features and are probably attributable to asiadapines. Anatomical features of the limb elements indicate that they represent active arboreal quadrupedal primates. At least one calcaneus is proximally shorter and distally longer than the others, resembling eosimiids in this regard, a relationship that, if confirmed, would also suggest an Asian or southeast Asian faunal connection. Isolated teeth from Vastan Mine recently attributed to a new eosimiid, Anthrasimias gujaratensis, appear to provide that confirmation. However, their attribution to Eosimiidae is equivocal. They are similar to teeth here tentatively referred to Marcgodinotius, hence A. gujaratensis may be a junior synonym of M. indicus. Corroboration of eosimiids at Vastan requires more compelling evidence. Although definitive conclusions are premature, available evidence suggests that the Vastan adapoids, at least, were derived from western European stock that reached India near the Paleocene-Eocene boundary.Journal of Human Evolution 04/2009; DOI:10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.01.008 · 3.87 Impact Factor