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J Hum Evol. 2008 Mar;54(3):279-86.

Paranasal pneumatization in extant and fossil Cercopithecoidea.

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Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, 43 Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HN, UK.


Unlike most primates, extant cercopithecoids lack maxillary sinuses, which are pneumatic spaces in the facial skeleton lateral of the nasal cavity proper. Character state analysis of living cercopithecoids across well-supported topologies suggests that the sinus was lost at the origin of the superfamily, only to have evolved again convergently in extant macaques. Recent work has shown that a) the 'early loss' hypothesis is supported by the lack of any pneumatization in Victoriapithecus, a stem cercopithecoid, b) like extant macaques, the fossil cercopithecine Paradolichopithecus shows evidence of presence of the maxillary sinus (MS), and c) unlike extant colobines, the fossil colobine Libypithecus also possesses a maxillary sinus. To more fully assess the pattern of cercopithecoid sinus evolution, fossil taxa from both subfamilies (Colobinae, Cercopithecinae) were examined both visually and by computed tomography (CT). The observations were evaluated according to standard anatomical criteria for defining sinus spaces, and compared with data from all extant Old World monkey genera. Most taxa examined conformed to the pattern already discerned from extant cercopithecoids. Maxillary sinus absence in Theropithecus oswaldi, Mesopithecus, and Rhinocolobus is typical for all extant cercopithecids except Macaca. The fossil macaque Macaca majori possesses a well-developed maxillary sinus, as do all living species of the genus. Cercopithecoides, on the other hand, differs from all extant colobines in possessing a maxillary sinus. Thus, paranasal pneumatization has reemerged a minimum of two and possibly three times in cercopithecoids. The results suggest that maxillary sinus absence in cercopithecoids is due to suppression, rather than complete loss.

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