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J Hum Evol. 2002 Mar;42(3):267-92.

Skeletal and dental morphology of African papionins: unmasking a cryptic clade.

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  • 1Department of Anatomical Sciences, Health Sciences Center, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York, 11794-8081, USA.


One of the more perplexing problems in primate systematics concerns the phyletic relationships of the large African monkeys--Mandrillus (including drills), Papio, Lophocebus and Cercocebus. For over twenty years, there has been molecular evidence that mangabeys are an unnatural group and that the terrestrial forms--Cercocebus--are the sister taxon of Mandrillus, while the arboreal forms--Lophocebus--are more closely allied with Papio. Nevertheless, most systematists have been reluctant to accept this scheme due to the lack of morphological evidence. In this paper, we undertake a detailed analysis of the scapula, humerus, radius, ulna, pelvis, femur and dentition of papionin primates. We identify a host of features shared by Cercocebus and Mandrillus to the exclusion of Lophocebus and Papio. The polarity of characters is established by examining an outgroup comprised of several species of Macaca. The features shared by Cercocebus and Mandrillus are functionally related to specific feeding and locomotor behaviors that include aggressive manual foraging, the processing of hard-object foods and the climbing of vertical trunks. We hypothesize that the ability to subsist on hard seeds and nuts gleaned from the forest floor is a key adaptation for the Cercocebus-Mandrillus clade.

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