A new skeleton of Theropithecus brumpti (Primates: Cercopithecidae) from Lomekwi, West Turkana, Kenya

Nina G. Jablonski, Meave G. Leakey, Christopher Kiarie, Mauricio Antón

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38 Scopus citations


A relatively complete skeleton of the fossil papionin, Theropithecus brumpti, from the site of Lomekwi, west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, is here described. The specimen, KNM-WT 39368, was recovered at the site of LO 5 (3°51′N and 35°45′E), from sediments dated to approximately 3·3 Ma. The skeleton is that of an old adult male and preserves a number of articulated elements, including most of the forelimbs and tail. The cranial morphology is that of a large, early T. brumpti, exhibiting a deep mandible with a deeply excavated mandibular corpus fossa, and mandibular alveoli and cheek teeth arrayed in a reversed Curve of Spee. The forelimb skeleton exhibits a unique mixture of characteristics generally associated with a terrestrial locomotor habitus, such as a narrow scapula and a highly stable elbow joint, combined with those more representative of habitual arborealists, such as muscle attachments reflecting a large rotator cuff musculature and a flexible shoulder joint. The forelimb of KNM-WT 39368 also presents several features, unique to Theropithecus, which represent adaptations for manual grasping and fine manipulation. These features include a large, retroflexed medial humeral epicondyle (to which large pronator, and carpal and digital flexor muscles attached) and proportions of the digital rays that denote capabilities for precise opposition between the thumb and index finger. Taken together, these features indicate that one of the earliest recognized representatives of Theropithecus exhibited the food harvesting and processing anatomy that distinguished the genus through time and that contributed to its success throughout the later Pliocene and Pleistocene. Based on the anatomy of KNM-WT 39368 and the known habitat preference of T. brumpti, the species is reconstructed as being a generally terrestrial but highly dexterous, very large-bodied, sexually dimorphic, and possibly folivorous papionin. T. brumpti was adapted for propulsive quadrupedal locomotion over generally even ground, and yet was highly adept at manual foraging. The estimate of 43·8 kg body mass for KNM-WT 39368 renders unlikely the possibility that the species, or at least adult males of the species, were highly arboreal. T. brumpti, as represented by KNM-WT 39368, is seen as a large, colorfully decorated, and basically terrestrial papionin that was restricted to riverine forest habitats in the Lake Turkana Basin from the middle to latest Pliocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-923
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology


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