Tail architecture and function of Cebupithecia sarmientoi, a Middle Miocene platyrrhine from La Venta, Colombia

Jason M. Organ, Pierre Lemelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Cebupithecia sarmientoi, an early pitheciine from the Middle Miocene of La Venta, Colombia, preserves an almost complete caudal vertebral sequence (18 vertebrae). Behavioral reconstructions for this taxon based on appendicular elements suggest a locomotor profile similar to that of Pithecia for which vertical clinging postures and leaping behavior are frequently adopted. General tail morphology suggests some similarity with prehensile-tailed Cebus in the proximal tail region, although overwhelming similarity with nonprehensile-tailed Pithecia is evident in the distal tail region. Indices of caudal muscle attachment sites show marked similarities to nonprehensile-tailed platyrrhines, especially Pithecia. However, the cortices of Cebupithecia caudal vertebral bodies are thicker than those of most other nonprehensile-tailed New World primates. Mechanically, this would provide high resistance to bending and torsional stresses, falling within the range exhibited by prehensile-tailed monkeys. These results suggest that Cebupithecia may have employed its tail differently than most nonprehensile-tailed platyrrhines living today, behaviors that possibly involved tail-bracing or twisting during hindlimb (pedal grasping) suspensory behaviors. Such behaviors may serve as a preadaptive model for the full-fledged evolution of below-branch tail suspension and prehensility seen in other New World primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2013-2023
Number of pages11
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Caudal vertebrae
  • Cross-sectional geometry
  • New World monkeys
  • PQCT
  • Platyrrhini
  • Prehensile tail
  • Primate evolution
  • Section modulus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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