The Gibbons pp 111-130 | Cite as

The Fossil Record of Gibbons

  • Nina G. Jablonski
  • George Chaplin
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)

Modern gibbons of the family Hylobatidae are distinguished from other living apes by a suite of shared-derived characteristics (synapomorphies) related to their unique mode of overhead suspensory locomotion and territorial defense. These characteristics include a greatly elongated and highly mobile forelimb, greatly reduced or nonexistent sexual dimorphism in body and canine tooth size, a predominantly monogamous social organization, and stereotyped vocalizations that function to establish and maintain boundaries between family groups. In recent years, there has been considerable debate as to whether gibbons so defined are an ancient lineage with roots well back into the middle Miocene or whether they are of more recent origin. Here, one immediately confronts the difficulty that identification of true gibbons in the fossil record is limited to characters of the skeleton and dentition and, thus, only assays half of the features that define the Family.

In this chapter, we first update...


Fossil Record Late Pleistocene Late Miocene Middle Miocene Interbirth Interval 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The first phase of this research was conducted from 1993 to 1998 and was supported by grants to NGJ from the Australian Research Council. Jablonski thanks her original project research assistants, Nola Roberts-Smith, Matt Whitfort, Paul Ottaviano, and Jane Bailey for creating the first version of the Eurasian Fossil Mammal Database and conducting GIS analyses. Logistical support from Derek Milton of ESRI (Australia) and from donations of GIS software through ESRI’s Environmental Conservation Program headed by Charles Convis is gratefully acknowledged. Financial support from the In-house Research Fund of the California Academy of Sciences is also gratefully acknowledged. Discussions with Warren Brockelman between 1997 and 2003 greatly enriched our understanding of gibbon ecology and evolution. We thank Susan Lappan and Danielle Whittaker for asking us to contribute to the volume.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.409 Carpenter Building, Department of AnthropologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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