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Well-constrained estimates of adult body mass for species of fossil platyrrhines (New World “monkeys”) are essential for resolving numerous paleobiological questions. However, no consensus exists as to which craniodental measures best correlate with body mass among extant taxa in this clade. In this analysis, we analyze 80 craniodental variables and generate predictive equations applicable to fossil taxa, including the early platyrrhine Chilecebus carrascoensis.
We find mandibular length to be the best craniodental predictor of body mass. There is no significant difference in predictive value between osteological and dental measures. Variables associated with the mandible and lower dentition do significantly outperform the cranium and upper dentition. Additionally, we demonstrate that modern platyrrhines differ, morphometrically, from early fossil forms. Chilecebus possesses unusual cranial proportions in several key features, as well as proportionally narrow upper incisors and wide upper cheek teeth. These variables yield widely divergent body mass estimates for Chilecebus, implying that the correlations observed in a crown group cannot be assumed a priori for early diverging fossils. Variables allometrically consistent with those in extant forms yield a body mass estimate of slightly less than 600 grams for Chilecebus, nearly a factor of two smaller than prior preliminary estimates.
Scaled to body mass, the brain of Chilecebus is markedly smaller than those of modern anthropoids, despite its lowered body mass estimate advocated here. This finding, in conjunction with a similar pattern exhibited by fossil catarrhines, suggests that increased encephalization arose independently in the two extant subgroups of anthropoids (platyrrhines and catarrhines).