Cranial anatomy of the Duchesnean primate Rooneyia viejaensis: new insights from high resolution computed tomography

J Hum Evol. 2014 Sep;74:82-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.03.007. Epub 2014 May 22.


Rooneyia viejaensis is a North American Eocene primate of uncertain phylogenetic affinities. Although the external cranial anatomy of Rooneyia is well studied, various authors have suggested that Rooneyia is a stem haplorhine, stem strepsirrhine, stem tarsiiform, or stem anthropoid. Here we describe the internal cranial anatomy of the Rooneyia holotype based on micro-computed tomography and discuss the phylogenetic implications of this anatomy. Precise measurements of the natural endocast filling the braincase of the Rooneyia holotype reveal that the genus had a relative brain size comparable to some living callitrichines and strepsirrhines. Rooneyia was thus probably more encephalized than any other known omomyiform, adapiform, or plesiadapiform. Relative olfactory bulb size in Rooneyia was most comparable to some living strepsirrhines and the stem anthropoid Parapithecus. The nasal fossa of Rooneyia resembled that of living strepsirrhines in retaining an obliquely oriented nasolacrimal canal, four ethmoturbinals, and an olfactory recess separated from the nasopharyngeal meatus by a transverse lamina. The ear region of Rooneyia is characterized by large and complete canals for both the stapedial and promontory branches of the internal carotid artery. Rooneyia also retains a patent parotic fissure and thus had an extrabullar origin of the stapedius muscle. In most of these respects, Rooneyia exhibits the condition that is presumed to be primitive for crown primates and lacks a number of key crown haplorhine synapomorphies (e.g., a dorso-ventrally oriented nasolacrimal canal, loss of the olfactory recess, loss of ethmoturbinals 3-4, loss or extreme reduction of the stapedial canal due to involution of the stapedial artery). These data are consistent with the hypothesis that Rooneyia is an advanced stem primate or a basal crown primate but are inconsistent with prior suggestions that Rooneyia is a crown haplorhine.

Keywords: Endocast; Middle ear; Nasal fossa; Olfactory bulb; Omomyid; Turbinal.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fossils / anatomy & histology*
  • Fossils / diagnostic imaging
  • Phylogeny
  • Primates / anatomy & histology*
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging
  • Texas
  • X-Ray Microtomography