International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 21–37

The ecology of oligocene African anthropoidea

  • Richard F. Kay
  • Elwyn L. Simons

DOI: 10.1007/BF02692256

Cite this article as:
Kay, R.F. & Simons, E.L. Int J Primatol (1980) 1: 21. doi:10.1007/BF02692256


African anthropoids are first recorded in Early Oligocene deposits of the Fayum Province, Egypt. Six genera and nine species are recognized. Estimated body weights for these taxa are based on the regression equation log10(B) = 2.86log10(L) + 1.37, whereB is the bodyweight in grams, and Lis the M2length in millimeters. The equation is derived from 106 species of living primates. Fayum species range in body weight from about 600 g (Apidium moustafai)to about 6000 g (Aegyptopithecus zeuxis).A similar range of body weight is found among extant Cebidae. The Fayum primates are larger than any extant insectivorous primates;this fact probably rules out a predominantly insectivorous diet. Extant frugivorous hominoids can be separated from folivorous hominoids on the basis of molar morphology. Folivorous apes (gorilla and siamang) have proportionately more shearing on their molars than do frugivorous species. Based on the hominoid analogy, the molar morphology of the Fayum species is consistent with a frugivorous diet. Parapithecus grangeristands apart from other Fayum species in having better developed molar shearing, possibly indicating that it had more fiber in its diet. Terrestrial species of Old World monkeys tend to have significantly higher molar crowns than do more arboreal species. This difference may relate to an increased amount of grit in the diet of the more terrestrial species, selecting for greater resistance to wear. Oligocene primates have molar crown heights consistent with a primarily arboreal mode of existence. However, the particularly high molar crowns of Parapithecus grangerisuggest that this species may have foraged on the ground to a considerable degree. Other evidence is advanced suggesting that Apidiummay have had a diurnal activity pattern.


primatesAnthropoideapaleontologydental anatomy

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard F. Kay
    • 1
  • Elwyn L. Simons
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Anthropology and AnatomyDuke University Medical Center and Duke Primate CenterDurham