Food Acquisition and Processing in Primates

pp 467-508

Anatomy and Behaviour of Extinct Primates

  • Richard F. KayAffiliated withDepartment of Anatomy, Duke University Medical Center
  • , Herbert H. CovertAffiliated withDepartment of Anatomy, Duke University Medical Center

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The fossil record of primates provides our only direct evidence of the course of evolution leading to the present diversity of primate species, and about the nature of extinct forms which died without issue. Three goals of palaeoprimatological research are identifiable: (1) to identify and name extinct species and to determine their geographical and temporal distribution; (2) to analyze the associations among the species and reconstruct a picture of their phylogeny; and (3) finally, to clarify in functional and adaptive terms the observed morphology and morphological trends among the species and groups of species. Aspects of this last goal are the subject of this paper, where we outline a possible approach to the assessment of the morphology of species which allows their adaptations to be reconstructed. We can thereby provide a series of adaptive models based on living primates which can form the basis for interpreting the morphology of extinct primates.