Molar microwear and dietary reconstructions of fossil Cercopithecoidea from the Plio-Pleistocene deposits of South Africa

Sireen El-Zaatari, Frederick E. Grine, Mark F. Teaford, Heather F. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The South African Plio-Pleistocene cave deposits have yielded a diverse cercopithecoid fauna. In this study, the possible dietary proclivities of these extinct species are examined using details of molar microwear. Although sample sizes are often small, wear patterns suggest possible temporal changes in the diets of Parapapio jonesi from Makapansgat to Sterkfontein, of Papio robinsoni from Sterkfontein to Swartkrans, and Cercopithecoides williamsi from Makapansgat to Sterkfontein to Swartkrans. However, there does not appear to have been a significant change in the dietary habits of Parapapio broomi over time. The microwear patterns of the two temporally successive congeners, Theropithecus darti and T. oswaldi show no significant differences from one another. The sympatric congeners, Parapapio broomi and Pp. jonesi, have microwear signatures that differ significantly at Makapansgat (Members 3 and 4) but not at Sterkfontein (Member 4). Finally, the microwear analyses suggest that the extinct cercopithecoid species did not necessarily have diets similar to those of their closest living relatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-205
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005



  • Cercopithecoidea
  • Cercopithecoides
  • Diet
  • Dinopithecus
  • Gorgopithecus
  • Microwear
  • Papio
  • Parapapio
  • Theropithecus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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