Utilization of savanna-based resources by Plio-Pleistocene baboons Academic Article uri icon


  • We have determined the tooth enamel carbonate 13C values of five cercopithecoid taxa from the Plio-Pleistocene deposits of Swartkrans Members 1 and 2 and Sterkfontein Member 4. These data were used to determine the relative proportions of C 3 and C 4 biomass consumed by extinct baboons and contemporary non-human primates. We compared these results with data on modern Papio hamadryas ursinus from different savanna areas in South Africa, as well as with published isotopic data and dietary interpretations based on molar morphology of these taxa. The data reveal little evidence for use of grasses or grass-based foods by modern South African baboons. The fossil papionins Papio hamadryas robinsoni, Papio (Dinopithecus) ingens, and Parapapio spp., however, utilized more savanna-based C 4 resources than previously predicted (particularly in the case of P. (D.) ingens). Theropithecus oswaldi had 13C values depicting, as expected, a largely grass-based diet, and we confirm earlier conclusions that this species incorporated a wider range of food items into its diet than do modern T. gelada, as reported in the literature. The colobine monkey, Cercopithecoides williamsi, made extensive use of savanna-.based C 4 foods, confirming some degree of terrestrial foraging by the species.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Codron, D., Luyt, J., Lee-Thorp, J. A., Sponheimer, M., de Ruiter, D., & Codron, J.

complete list of authors

  • Codron, D||Luyt, J||Lee-Thorp, JA||Sponheimer, M||de Ruiter, D||Codron, J

publication date

  • May 2005