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Eye Size and Set in Small‐Bodied Fossil Primates: A Three‐Dimensional Method

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We introduce a new method to geometrically reconstruct eye volume and placement in small‐bodied primates based on the three‐dimensional contour of the intraorbital surface. We validate it using seven species of living primates, with dry skulls and wet dissections, and test its application on seven species of Paleogene fossils of interest. The method performs well even when the orbit is damaged and incomplete, lacking the postorbital bar and represented only by the orbital floor. Eye volume is an important quantity for anatomic and metabolic reasons, which due to differences in eye set, or position within (or outside) the bony orbit, can be underestimated in living and fossil forms when calculated from aperture diameter. Our Ectopic Index quantifies how much the globe's volume protrudes anteriorly from the aperture. Lemur, Notharctus and Rooneyia resemble anthropoids, with deeply recessed eyes protruding 11%–13%. Galago and Tarsius are the other extreme, at 47%–56%. We argue that a laterally oriented aperture has little to do with line‐of‐sight in euprimates, as large ectopic eyes can position the cornea to enable a directly forward viewing axis, and soft tissue positions the eyes facing forward in megachiropteran bats, which have unenclosed, open eye sockets. The size and set of virtual eyes reconstructed from 3D cranial models confirm that eyes were large to hypertrophic in Hemiacodon, Necrolemur, Microchoerus, Pseudoloris and Shoshonius, but eye size in Rooneyia may have been underestimated by measuring the aperture, as in Aotus. Anat Rec, 299:1671–1689, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Keywords: 3D reconstruction; Rooneyia; fossil primates; orbits; virtual eyes

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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