Comparing Rates of Linage Diversification with Rates of Size and Shape Evolution in Catarrhine Crania

Evan A. Simons, Stephen R. Frost, Katerina Harvati, Kieran McNulty, Michelle Singleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Many authors have hypothesized an association between rates of morphological evolution and rates of species diversification, however, this association has yet to be empirically tested in the primate cranium. In this investigation, we used phylogeny-based approaches to examine the relationship between rates of species diversification, rates of cranial size and shape evolution, and observed cranial morphological disparity of extant catarrhines (Order: Primates). We used 34 3D landmarks digitized from 2038 crania representing 42 catarrhine species and a time-calibrated molecular phylogeny to determine the rates of evolution of cranial size and shape, rates of lineage diversification, and levels of morphological disparity by clade. The only significant relationship among these variables was for evolutionary rates of size and shape change. We discuss these results in the context of primate and mammalian macroevolution, and in light of the proposed hypothesis that size is a “line of least evolutionary resistance” in cranial evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-163
Number of pages12
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thank you to all those who provided access to specimens in their care: Dr. Kevin Kuykendal, Anatomy Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Dr. Ina Plug, Transvaal Museum, Pretoria; Chris Stringer, Louise Humphry and Rob Kruszynski, and Dr. Paula Jenkins, British Museum (Natural History), London; the staff of the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington; Yoel Rak, University of Tel Aviv; Henry de Lumley, Marie-Antoinette de Lumley and Dominique Grimaud-Herve´, Institut de Pale´olontologie Humaine; Roberto Macchiarelli and Luca Bondioli, Museo Pigorini; Patrick Semal, Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles; Maria Teschler, Naturhistorisches Museum; Andre´ Langaney and Mario Chech, Muse´e de l’Homme; Horst Seidler and Sylvia Kirchengast, University of Vienna; Niels Lynnerup, University of Copenhagen; Emmanuel Gilissen and Wim van Neer, Muse´e Royal de l’Afrique Centrale; Georges Lenglet (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences); Jacques Repe´perant and Francis Renoult, Muse´e National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Prof. Wolfgang Maier, Lehrstuhl fu¨ r Spezielle Zoologie, Universita¨t Tu¨ bingen; Dr. G. Storch, Forschungsinstitut Senkenberg, Frankfurt; Dr. Richard Thorington, Linda Gordon, Darren Lunde, and Eileen Westwig, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Drs. Chris Norris, Ross MacPhee, Nancy Simmons, and Robert Randall, American Museum of Natural History, New York; Ian Tattersall, Gary Sawyer and Ken Mowbray, Department of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History; Lawrence Heaney and William Stanley (Field Museum of Natural History); Craig Hood and Nelson Rios (Tulane University Museum of Natural History). This is NYCEP Morphometrics Contribution #112.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Adaptive radiation
  • Cranial evolution
  • Evolutionary rates
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Primates


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