, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 1278-1308
Date: 15 Nov 2011

Modeling the Biogeography of Fossil Baboons

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We use a model of modern baboon socio-ecology to explore the behavioral ecology and biogeography of the extinct Plio-Pleistocene baboons (genera Parapapio, Gorgopithecus, Dinopithecus, and Papio). The model is based on the way climate affects the baboons’ time budgets, and focuses on intersite variability in behavior rather than on species-typical patterns of behavior, as most previous approaches have done. We use climate estimates for individual fossil sites based on matching modern habitats using faunal profiles and estimates of individual species’ body masses given in the literature. The model allows us to examine the minimum and maximum sizes of groups that individual species would have been able to support at particular localities, and hence the biogeography of a species on a continental scale. In doing so, the model allows us to examine which variables are most responsible for limiting a species’ ecological and biogeographic flexibility, and through this to explore a species’ capacity for coping with climate change. Feeding time is identified as the main constraint. In general, large-bodied species would have had more difficulty surviving in as wide a range of habitats as smaller-bodied species, and this may explain the limited geographical distribution of large-bodied baboons such as Gorgopithecus and Dinopithecus.