Student Summer Scholars




Primates inhabited the Caribbean islands for millions of years, from at least 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 for 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 along with the relation of Paralouatta to the extant platyrrhine families. We used geometric morphometrics in order to collect three-dimensional shape data to carry out a number of statistical analyses. Principal component analyses were carried out on all individuals as well as on all extant taxa means and individual fossils. A canonical variate analysis, with permutation tests, was also performed. Our sample consisted of 166 individuals, 160 of which were extant taxa from 14 primate families. The remaining 6 were platyrrhine fossils. The PCAs and CVA performed showed Paralouatta to be more closely related to the atelids; the family of New World monkeys that includes the howler, spider, and woolly monkeys. Locomotor inferences are still unclear as the distal tibia of Paralouatta does not fit tightly with the arboreal or terrestrial primates used in this analysis but does exhibit a mix of characters associated with terrestrial and arboreal suspension ankle morphology.