, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 705-728
Date: 03 Jul 2007

Dental Eruption Sequences in Fossil Colobines and the Evolution of Primate Life Histories

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Unlike other catarrhines, colobines show early molar eruption relative to that of the anterior dentition. The pattern is variable, with Asian genera (Presbytina) showing a greater variability than the African genera (Colobina). The polarity of early relative molar eruption, as well as the degree to which it is related to phylogeny, are unclear. Schultz (1935) suggested that the trend reflects phylogeny and is primitive for catarrhines. More recently, however, researchers have proposed that life history and dietary hypotheses account for early relative molar eruption. If the colobine eruption pattern is primitive for catarrhines, it implies that cercopithecines and hominoids converged on delayed relative molar eruption. Alternatively, if the colobine condition is derived, factors such as diet and mortality patterns probably shaped colobine eruption patterns. Here we update our knowledge on eruption sequences of living colobines, and explore the evolutionary history of the colobine dental eruption pattern by examining fossil colobine taxa from Eurasia (Mesopithecus) and Africa (Kuseracolobus aramisi and Colobus sp.) and the basal cercopithecoid Victoriapithecus macinnesi. We scored specimens per Harvati (2000). The Late Miocene-Early Pliocene Mesopithecus erupts the second molar early relative to the incisors, while the Early Pliocene Kuseracolobus aramisi does not. These results demonstrate that the common colobine tendency for early molar eruption relative to the anterior dentition had appeared by the Late Miocene, and that some of the diversity observed among living colobines was already established in the Late Miocene/Early Pliocene. We discuss the implications of these results for phylogenetic, life history, and dietary hypotheses of dental development.