The paleobiology of the recently-extinct platyrrhines of Brazil and the Caribbean

Siobhán B. Cooke, Justin T. Gladman, Lauren B. Halenar, Zachary S. Klukkert, Alfred L. Rosenberger

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The extant radiation of Neotropical primates, the platyrrhines, occupy a great variety of ecological niches in the tropical forests of Central and South America. This diversity includes large-bodied suspensory ripe fruit specialists such as Ateles, mid-canopy dwelling seed consuming pitheciids, the predominantly folivorous genera Alouatta and Brachyteles, the very small-bodied insect- and sap-consuming pygmy marmoset as well as the only nocturnal anthropoid, Aotus or the Owl Monkey, among many others. Though this radiation is incredibly diverse today, at the terminal Pleistocene, there were several species unlike any extant forms; these included the very large-bodied (20 kg) Brazilian atelids and several species of endemic Caribbean primates with unique morphological adaptations. In this chapter, we review the history of the discovery of the Brazilian and Caribbean extinct primates, discuss their major morphological adaptations including their unique cranial, postcranial, and dental morphologies, and review possible extinction scenarios. Though the exact timing of their extinction is unclear, these primates seem to have disappeared from their respective environments after the arrival of human beings. Finally, we discuss the ecological impact that these extinctions may have had and the ways that paleontologists can contribute to understanding extinction processes today.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhylogeny, Molecular Population Genetics, Evolutionary Biology and Conservation of the Neotropical Primates
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages49
ISBN (Electronic)9781634852043
ISBN (Print)9781634851657
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • paleontology
  • primates
  • South America
  • Caribbean
  • Hispaniola
  • Jamaica
  • Cuba
  • Brazil
  • Extinction
  • fossil
  • caves
  • fieldwork
  • research
  • Holocene


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