Description and taxonomic assessment of fossil Cercopithecidae from the Pliocene Galili Formation (Ethiopia)

Hailay G. Reda, Stephen R. Frost, Evan A. Simons, Jay Quade, Scott W. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Mount Galili Formation in the Afar region, Ethiopia, samples a critical time in hominin evolution, 4.4 to 3.8 Ma, documenting the last appearance of Ardipithecus and the origin of Australopithecus. This period is also important in the evolution of cercopithecids, especially the origin of Theropithecus in general and Theropithecus oswaldi lineage in particular. Galili has provided a total of 655 cercopithecid specimens that include crania, mandibles, isolated teeth and postcrania. All the fossils were recovered from the Lasdanan (5.3–4.43 Ma), Dhidinley (4.43–3.9 Ma) and Shabeley Laag (∼3.92–3.8 Ma) Members. Here, we described and analyzed 362 fossils employing both qualitative and quantitative methods. Descriptions of the material were supplemented with dental metrics and cranial shape analysis using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics. Results indicate the presence of at least six cercopithecid taxa: Theropithecus oswaldi serengetensis (n = 28), Theropithecus sp. (n = 2), three non-Theropithecus papionin groups (n = 134) and one colobine-size group (n = 58). The T. o. serengetensis represents the earliest form of the lineage, documented from ∼3.9 Ma Galili sediments. The three Galili papionins include a smaller taxon, a medium-sized taxon comparable to Pliopapio alemui and a large papionin overlapping in size with Soromandrillus, Gorgopithecus and Dinopithecus. The majority of Galili colobines have closest affinities to Kuseracolobus aramisi and some overlap with other taxa. Papionins dominate the Galili cercopithecid collection, although colobines are still fairly common (approximately 25% of the sample). Thus, Galili sample is like Kanapoi (4.2–4.1 Ma) and Gona (5.2–3.9 Ma) localities but distinct from Aramis, suggesting paleoecological similarity to the former sites. On the other hand, Theropithecus is less abundant at Galili than geologically younger Hadar (3.4–3.2 Ma) and Woranso-Mille (3.8–3.6 Ma) sites. Whether this difference is due to sampling, time or landscape variation requires further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103508
JournalJournal of human evolution
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Cercopithecids
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Hominins
  • Paleoecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


Dive into the research topics of 'Description and taxonomic assessment of fossil Cercopithecidae from the Pliocene Galili Formation (Ethiopia)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this