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    The bony labyrinth of the inner ear has special relevance when tracking phenotypic evolution because it is often well preserved in fossil and modern primates. Here we track the evolution of the bony labyrinth of anthropoid primates during the Mio-Plio-Pleistocene-the time period that gave rise to the extant great apes and humans. We use geometric morphometrics to analyze labyrinthine morphology in a wide range of extant and fossil anthropoids, including New World and Old World monkeys, apes, and humans; fossil taxa are represented by Aegyptopithecus, Microcolobus, Epipliopithecus, Nacholapithecus, Oreopithecus, Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and Homo. Our results show that the morphology of the anthropoid bony labyrinth conveys a statistically significant phylogenetic signal especially at the family level. The bony labyrinthine morphology of anthropoids is also in part associated with size, but does not cluster by locomotor adaptations. The Miocene apes examined here, regardless of inferred locomotor behaviors, show labyrinthine morphologies distinct from modern great apes. Our results suggest that labyrinthine variation contains mixed signals and alternative explanations need to be explored, such as random genetic drift and neutral phenotypic evolution, as well as developmental constraints. The observed pattern in fossil and extant hominoids also suggests that an additional factor, for example, prenatal brain development, could have potentially had a larger role in the evolutionary modification of the bony labyrinth than hitherto recognized. © 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


    Naoki Morimoto, Yutaka Kunimatsu, Masato Nakatsukasa, Marcia S Ponce de León, Christoph P E Zollikofer, Hidemi Ishida, Tomohiko Sasaki, Gen Suwa. Variation of bony labyrinthine morphology in Mio-Plio-Pleistocene and modern anthropoids. American journal of physical anthropology. 2020 Oct;173(2):276-292

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    PMID: 32529656

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