International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 115–137 | Cite as

Problems of body-weight estimation in fossil primates

  • Glenn C. Conroy


Body-weight estimates of fossil primates are commonly used to infer many important aspects of primate paleobiology, including diet, ecology, and relative encephalization. It is important to examine carefully the methodologies and problems associated with such estimates and the degree to which one can have confidence in them. New regression equations for predicting body weight in fossil primates are given which provide body-weight estimates for most nonhominid primate species in the fossil record. The consequences of using different subgroups (evolutionary “grades”) of primate species to estimate fossil-primate body weights are explored and the implications of these results for interpreting the primate fossil record are discussed. All species (fossil and extant) were separated into the following “grades”: prosimian grade, monkey grade, ape grade, anthropoid grade, and all-primates grade. Regression equations relating lower molar size to body weight for each of these grades were then calculated. In addition, a female-anthropoid grade regression was also calculated for predicting body weight infernales of extinct, sexually dimorphic anthropoid species. These equations were then used to generate the fossil-primate body weights. In many instances, the predicted fossil-primate body weights differ substantially from previous estimates.

Key words

allometry fossil primates body weight brain size primate evolution tooth size 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenn C. Conroy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology/AnthropologyWashington University School of MedicineSt. Louis

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