1. Yunnan Institute of Paleontology and Archaeology, Kunming, Yunnan 650118, China; 2. School of Anatomical Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; South Africa 3. Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia
The extant papionin monkeys are represented today by several genera including Papio (baboons) and Theropithecus (geladas) in Africa,and Macaca (macaques) in North Africa and Asia. However, During the Pliocene and Pleistocene, while geladas occupied African and India (e.g., Delson, 1984; Prasad, 1996; Fleagle, 1999; Frost & Delson, 2002; El-Zaatari et al, 2005), Papio inhabited only sub-Saharan Africa. In both cases, diversity was considerably greater in the past than today. African papionins were also sympatric with hominins, both groups being found together in major fossil hominin localities throughout East and southern Africa. Papionins are important chronological (faunal) markers for hominin sites as well as providing insights into ecology. In 2001, in Zhongdian County, Yunnan Province, China, a fossil primate was unearthed from a locality along the Jingsha River that strongly morphologically resembles Papio (see Fig.1). This fossil comprises most of a well-preserved mandible with some teeth. The specimen is dated using faunal correlation to the Lower Pleistocene. The presence of a Papio-like lineage in China is important because: 1) it indicates much wider geographic distribution for this previously African-only lineage, offering new information about primate evolution and biogeography; 2) it stems from a time when hominins first occupied East Asia; 3) it was discovered in a region likely to have been a major corridor for settlement of East Asia by hominins and other primates; and 4) it potentially offers new insights into various aspects of hominin ecology.