Fossil Cercopithecidae from the Early Pliocene Sagantole Formation at Gona, Ethiopia

Stephen R. Frost, Scott W. Simpson, Naomi E. Levin, Jay Quade, Michael J. Rogers, Sileshi Semaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Early Pliocene Sagantole Fm. in the Gona Project area, Afar State, Ethiopia, is noted for discoveries of the early hominin Ardipithecus ramidus. A large series of fossil cercopithecid primates dated to between 4.8 and 4.3 Ma has also been collected from these sediments. In this paper, we use qualitative analysis and standard dental and postcranial measures to systematically describe the craniodental remains and tentatively allocate postcrania to taxa where we are able to. We then use these data to compare these specimens to fossil assemblages from contemporary sites, interpret their paleobiology, and discuss implications for the paleoecology of the Gona Sagantole Fm. We recognize three cercopithecid species in the Gona Sagantole Fm. Pliopapio alemui makes up approximately two-thirds of the identifiable specimens; nearly all of the rest are allocated to Kuseracolobus aramisi, and a single molar indicates the presence of a second, somewhat larger but morphologically distinct papionin. Among the Early Pliocene cercopithecids from Gona are also a number of postcranial elements. None of the postcranial remains are directly associated with any of the cranial material. Nonetheless, some of the distal humeri and proximal femora can be tentatively allocated to either Pl. alemui or K. aramisi based on a combination of size, as the latter is approximately 50% larger than the former, and morphology. If these assignments are correct, they suggest K. aramisi was primarily arboreal and similar to most extant colobines, whereas Pl. alemui was more mixed in its substrate use, being more terrestrially adapted than K. aramisi, but less so than extant Papio or Theropithecus. Thus, we interpret the predominance of Pl. alemui over K. aramisi is consistent with a somewhat more open environment at Gona than at Aramis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102789
JournalJournal of human evolution
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Ardipithecus ramidus
  • Kuseracolobus
  • Paleobiology
  • Pliopapio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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