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Folia Primatol (Basel). 1998;69 Suppl 1:250-85.

Evolutionary history of lorisiform primates.

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Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. 63130, USA.


We integrate information from the fossil record, morphology, behavior and molecular studies to provide a current overview of lorisoid evolution. Several Eocene prosimians of the northern continents, including both omomyids and adapoids, have been suggested as possible lorisoid ancestors, but these cannot be substantiated as true strepsirhines. A small-bodied primate, Anchomomys, of the middle Eocene of Europe may be the best candidate among putative adapoids for status as a true strepsirhine. Recent finds of Eocene primates in Africa have revealed new prosimian taxa that are also viable contenders for strepsirhine status. Plesiopithecus teras is a Nycticebussized, nocturnal prosimian from the late Eocene, Fayum, Egypt, that shares cranial specializations with lorisoids, but it also retains primitive features (e.g. four premolars) and has unique specializations of the anterior teeth excluding it from direct lorisiform ancestry. Another unnamed Fayum primate resembles modern cheirogaleids in dental structure and body size. Two genera from Oman, Omanodon and Shizarodon, also reveal a mix of similarities to both cheirogaleids and anchomomyin adapoids. Resolving the phylogenetic position of these Africa primates of the early Tertiary will surely require more and better fossils. By the early to middle Miocene, lorisoids were well established in East Africa, and the debate about whether these represent lorisines or galagines is reviewed. Neontological data are used to address the controversial branching sequences among extent lorisid clades. Data from the skin and scent glands, when integrated with other lines of evidence, suggest that Asian and African lorisines share a common lorisine ancestry. The hypothesis of an African clade containing both pottos and galagos to the exclusion of Asian lorisines is less tenable. True galagines are found in the fossil record of Namibia, while true lorisines are known from the Miocene of Asia. The hypothetical branching sequences can be integrated with behavioral and morphological features to develop an adaptive model of lorisoid divergence. By specializing on two different foraging modes early in their radiation, lorisines and galagines subsequently underwent a chain of integrated evolutionary changes eventually having an impact on many components of locomotor behavior, anatomy, physiology, reproduction, life history, and social behavior. Ongoing evolutionary studies of extant galagines are illuminating population phenomena and processes of speciation in an ecological context.

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