Taxonomy and evolution of the hominoid dentition

Lead investigator: Alejandra Ortiz (Arizona State University)

Teeth are often used to make taxonomic and behavioral assessments for fossil specimens because they survive quite well in the fossil record. A great deal of anthropological research focuses on the validity of dental characters and dental morphology for assessing one or the other of these two facets of hominin and hominoid evolution, especially in regards to developmental processes that may affect those assessments.

We are currently investigating the tooth morphology of gibbons and siamangs, in the hopes of better identifying fossil specimens. Recently, we used these methods to determine the phylogenetic affinities of Bunopithecus sericus, a Pleistocene fossil gibbon from Sichuan, China. The phylogenetic position of Bunopithecus remains under debate, but has important implications for the taxonomy of the living hylobatids. Our results indicate that Bunopithecus is closely related to, but distinct from, the Hoolock gibbons alive today.

The type specimen of Bunopithecus sericus, AMNH 18534, is a mandible with the second and third molars. Buccal view.

Peer-reviewed publications

  • 2015. Ortiz A, Pilbrow V, Villamil CI, Korsgaard JG, Bailey SE, Harrison T. The taxonomic and phylogenetic affinities of Bunopithecus sericus, a fossil hylobatid from the Pleistocene of China. PLOS ONE 10(7):e0131206. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131206
  • In prep. Zhang Y, Kimock C, Villamil CI, Harrison T, Ortiz A. New hylobatid dental remains from Pleistocene deposits of Guangxi province, southern China.

Conference presentations

  • 2017. Ortiz A, Villamil CI, Kimock CM, He K, Harrison T. Tracking hylobatid taxonomic diversity from molar morphometrics. Am J Phys Anthropol. [abstract]
  • 2015. Ortiz A, Pilbrow V, Villamil CI, Korsgaard JG, Bailey SE, Harrison T. The systematic status of Bunopithecus sericus, a Pleistocene gibbon from Chongqing Province, southern China. Am J Phys Anthropol 156(S60):242. [abstract]

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