Human Evolution

, 10:289 | Cite as

Cautious climbing and folivory: a model of hominoid differentation

  • E. E. Sarmiento


Despite the large and growing number of Miocene fossil catarrhine taxa, suitable common ancestors of great apes and humans have yet to be agreed upon. Considering a) the conservative and primitive nature of the hominoid molar cusp pattern, and b) the variability of secondary dental features, it is difficult to discern whether a hominoid dentition is primitive, secondarily simplified to the primitive condition or too far derived to be ancestral to any of the living forms. Nonetheless, the inability to recognize a common ancestor is primarly due to the absence of a model of hominoid differentiation that provides a basis for its recognition. Vertical climbing as the limiting component of cautious climbing, explains all of the locomotor anatomy shared by living hominoids. Comparison of the shared derived characters of hominoids to those of forms which have converged on hominoidsi.e colobines, atelines, lorisines, paleopropithecines and sloths suggest that early hominoids were probably folivores. In arboreal forms there is a strong link between a large body size, folivory and cautious climbing. Comparison of craniodental characters of committed folivores to committed frugivores from among each of the compared groups with the exception of lorisines, indicates that many of the distinguishing craniodental characters of humans and great apes are adaptations to folivory. Many of these characters, however, are also present in Jolly's seed eating complex. As such folivory may be the heritage factor which Jolly hypothesized to account for differential reduction of canines in fossilTheropithecus and hominids.

Key words

atelines lorisines sloths colobines diet locomotion 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. E. Sarmiento
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General AnatomyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Research Associate Department of MammalogyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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