Andrea Morrow

An analysis of tibia of Paralouatta varoni, an extinct primate from Cuba

Primates inhabited the Caribbean islands for millions of years, possibly as early as the Miocene up until several thousand years ago. One genus, Paralouatta was endemic to the island of Cuba. The fossils of Paralouatta varonai, one of the two known species of that genus, have been well described, including evidence of possible semiterrestriality in the skeletal remains. Currently, all known New World Monkeys are arboreal, spending almost all of their time in trees. This work offers additional comparative analyses of the fossilized tibia of Paralouatta varonai, specifically looking at the distal articular surfaces to determine the locomotion of the extinct platyrrhine. In order to do this we created 3D scans of the tibiae of 14 extant taxa of primates along with 5 fossil taxa, including Paralouatta. All tibiae were landmarked in order to collect shape data that will be used to carry out comparative analyses. The Principle Component Analysis of the data collected so far shows the distal tibia of Paralouatta to most closely resemble Alouatta and Cebus, both arboreal platyrrhines. Paralouatta does not, however, clearly fall within any of the taxa analyzed. Additional data is being collected and once a larger sample size is attained we will be looking specifically at characteristics that can be used as indicators of locomotion.  As there are no longer any living primates on the islands, more information on locomotion and relation can give us a better understanding of the evolution, radiation, and ecology of the Caribbean primates.

Faculty Mentor: Melissa Tallman, Biomedical Science

Page last modified August 2, 2013