The anatomy and systematic position of the early Miocene proconsulid from Meswa Bridge, Kenya

Terry Harrison, Peter Andrews

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A small collection of fossil catarrhines was recovered from the early Miocene locality of Meswa Bridge in western Kenya between 1978 and 1980. The associated fauna from Meswa Bridge indicates an age older than 20 Ma. Much of the material has been briefly described previously, and its taxonomic status considered. The material can be assigned to a minimum of four individuals, all of which are infants or juveniles. Although the specimens were shown to belong to a distinct species of Proconsul, the taxon was not named, primarily because many of the specimens belonged to immature individuals. Nevertheless, the combined morphological features of the deciduous and permanent teeth allow the diagnosis of a new species of Proconsul, which is formally named here as P. meswae. It is a large-sized species, similar in dental size to P. nyanzae. The main features distinguishing it from all other previously named species of Proconsul are: incisors and deciduous incisors relatively low crowned; upper deciduous canines relatively higher crowned and more robust; molars and deciduous premolars relatively broader and higher crowned, with a more pronounced degree of buccolingual flare and better developed cingula; size differential between molars not as marked; dP4 with a longer mesial fovea and smaller hypoconulid and distal fovea; P4 relatively broader, with a better developed buccal cingulum; lower molars less rectangular with a longer mesial fovea, smaller distal fovea, more restricted talonid basin, and a tendency for a smaller hypoconulid; dP4 and upper molars with strongly buccolingually splayed roots; mandibular corpus in infants relatively deeper and more slender; maxilla with a well developed canine jugum and fossa. The broader and more flared molars with better developed cingula indicate that the Meswa Bridge species is more primitive than other species of Proconsul. The inference that it is a stem member of the Proconsul clade is consistent with the estimated age of the material.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)479-496
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Human Evolution
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - May 2009


    • Dentition
    • East Africa
    • Fossil apes
    • Muhoroni Agglomerates
    • Phylogeny
    • Proconsul meswae

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Anthropology


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