Richard Frederick Kay

Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology

External address: 
0013 Biological Sciences Building, 130 Science Drive, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Duke Box 90383, Durham, NC 27708-0383
Phone: 
(919) 684-2143

Overview

I have two areas of research:1) the evolution of primates in South America; and 2) the use of primate anatomy to reconstruct the phylogenetic history and adapations of living and extinct primates, especially Anthropoidea.

1) Evolution of primates and mammalian faunal evolution, especially in South America. For the past 30 years, I have been engaged in research in Argentina, Bolivia The Dominican Republic, Peru, and Colombia with three objectives:a) to reconstruct the evolutionary history and adaptive patterns of South America primates and other mammals; b) to establish a more precise geologic chronology for the mammalian faunas between the late Eocene and middle Miocene (between about 36 and about 15 million years ago); and c) to use anatomy and niche structure of modern mammals as a means to reconstruct the evolution of mammalian niche structure in the Neotropics.

2) Primate Anatomy. I am working to reconstruct the phylogeny of primates based (principally) on anatomical evidence; and to infer the adaptations of extinct primates based mainly on cranial and dental evidence.

Field activities
Current fieldwork is focused on the study of terrestrial biotic change in Patagonia through the 'mid-Miocene Climate Optimum' when global climate was moderate and the subtropical zone, with primates and other typically tropical vertebrates, extended their ranges up to 55 degrees of South latitude.

In this collaborative research undertaking with colleagues at University of Washington and Boise State University, the geochronology of the Santa Cruz Formation at in extreme southern Argentina is being refined using radiometric dating. Stratigraphically-controlled collections have been made of vertebrates and plant macro- and microfossils. Climate change and its impact on the biota is assessed 1) using biogeochemical analysis of stable isotopes in fossil mammalian tooth enamel; 2) by documenting changes in mammalian community structure (richness, origination and extinction rates, and ecological morphology); and 3) by documenting changes in vegetation and floral composition through the study of phytoliths. These three independent lines of evidence in a refined geochronologic framework will then be compared with similar evidence from continental sequences in the Northern Hemisphere and oceanic climatic records to improve our understanding of the timing and character of climatic change in continental high latitudes during this temporal interval.

A second field project project in its early stages is the study of the fossil vertebrates of the Amazon Basin. The latter is a collaborative effort of biologists and geologists across schools at Duke (Nicholas School) and among six North American universities. My role is to direct the vertebrate paleontology component of this project in Brazil and Amazonian Peru. The hope is to recover primates from the Oligocene through Early Miocene. New material will shed light on the phylogenetic status of African Paleogene anthropoids, one of which may be the platyrrhine sister-taxon. Also, new remains of fossil primates will help to refine hypotheses about the origins of the modern families and subfamilies of platyrrhines, all of which trace back to an Early Miocene (17-21 Ma) common ancestor. Finally, new fossil primates may further constrain the time of entry of platyrrhines into South America.

Degrees & Credentials

  • Ph.D., Yale University 1973

  • M.Phil., Yale University 1971

  • B.S., University of Michigan at Ann Arbor 1969

Fossil Mammals and the Waning of the Mid-Miocene Climate Optimum in Patagonia awarded by National Geographic Society (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2019

FESD Type I: Dynamics of Mountains, Landscapes and Climate Biodiversity Amazon/Andean Forest awarded by National Science Foundation (Co-Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2018

Recovering Paleogene Vertebrates from the Alto Río Madre de Dios, Peruvian Amazon awarded by National Geographic Society (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2018

Collaborative Research: Calibrating Mid-Miocene Greenhouse Climate and Ecology in a Key High Southern Latitude Locale awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2017

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Brain Size and Shape in Early Anthropoids awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2012 to 2015

RAPID: Recovery of Miocene Fossil Primates and Other Vertebrates along the Rio Santa Cruz, Argentina awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2014

Paleontological Investigations to Recover Fossil Monkeys From the Middle Cenozoic awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2013

Collaborative Proposal: Excavation of Underwater Cavern Containing Primates and Archaeological Remains in Hispaniola awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2012

Pages

Madden, RH, Vucetich, G, Carlini, AA, and Kay, RF. The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Press, 2010.

Ross, C, and Kay, RF. Anthropoid Origins. Springer Science & Business Media, January 1, 2004.

Ross, CF, and Kay, RF. Anthropoid Origins: New Visions. New York: Kluwer/Plenum Publishers, 2004.

Plavcan, JM, Kay, RF, Jungers, WL, and van Schaik, C. Reconstructing Behavior in the Primate Fossil Record. New York: Kluwer/Plenum Publishers, 2001.

Kay, RF, Madden, RH, Ciffeli, RL, and Flynn, JJ. Vertebrate Paleontology in the Neotropics. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.

Fleagle, JG, and Kay, RF. Anthropoid Origins: The Fossil Evidence. New York: Plenum Press, 1994.

Kay, RF. "Much hype and many errors." Science 21 (2009): 1074-1075.

Kay, RF. "The primate fossil record." AMERICAN JOURNAL OF HUMAN BIOLOGY 15.6 (2003): 839-840. Full Text

Kay, RF. "Colobine monkeys. Their ecology, behavior and evolution - Davies,AG, Gates,JF." SCIENCE 271.5246 (January 12, 1996): 156-157.

Kay, RF. "Primate Evolution, edited by J.G. Else and P.C. Lee." Quarterly Review of Biology 62 (1987): 451-.

Kay, RF, Meldrum, DJ, and Takai, M. "Pitheciidae and other platyrrhine seed predators." Evolutionary Biology and Conservation of Titis, Sakis and Uacaris. Ed. L Veiga, AA Barnett, SF Ferrari, and MA Norconk. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 3-12.

Vizcaíno, SF, Kay, RF, and Bargo, MS. "Background for a paleoecological study of the Santa Cruz Formation (late Early Miocene) on the Atlantic Coast of Patagonia." Early Miocene Paleobiology in Patagonia: High-latitude paleocommunities of the Santa Cruz Formation. Ed. SF Vizcaíno, RF Kay, and MS Bargo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 1-22.

Kay, RF, Vizcaíno, SF, and Bargo, MS. "A review of the paleoenvironment and paleoecology of the Miocene Santa Cruz Formation." Early Miocene Paleobiology in Patagonia: High-Latitude Paleocommunities of the Santa Cruz Formation. Ed. SF Vizcaíno, RF Kay, and MS Bargo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 331-364.

Kay, RF, Perry, JMG, Malinzak, MD, Allen, KL, Kirk, EC, Plavcan, JM, and Fleagle, JG. "The paleobiology of Santacrucian primates." Early Miocene Paleobiology in Patagonia: High-latitude paleocommunities of the Santa Cruz Formation. Ed. SF Vizcaíno, RF Kay, and MS Bargo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 306-330.

Madden, RH, Carlini, AA, Vucetich, MG, and Kay, RF. "Gran Barranca: a twenty-three million year record of Middle-Cenozoic faunal evolution in Patagonia." The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Ed. RH Madden, G Vucetich, AA Carlini, and RF Kay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Ré, GH, Bellosi, ES, Heizler, M, Vilas, JF, Madden, RH, Carlini, AA, Kay, RF, and Vucetich, MG. "A geochronology for the Sarmiento Formation at Gran Barranca." The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Ed. RH Madden, G Vucetich, AA Carlini, and RF Kay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 46-60.

Madden, RH, Carlini, AA, Vucetich, MG, and Kay, RF. "Gran Barranca: a twenty-three million year record of Middle-Cenozoic faunal evolution in Patagonia." The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Ed. RH Madden, G Vucetich, AA Carlini, and RF Kay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Madden, RH, Carlini, AA, Vucetich, MG, and Kay, RF. "Preface to The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia." The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Ed. RH Madden, AA Carlini, MG Vucetich, and RF Kay. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010. ix-x.

Kay, RF. "A New Primate from the Early Miocene of Gran Barranca, Chubut Province, Argentina: Paleoecological Implications." The Paleontology of Gran Barranca: Evolution and Environmental Change through the Middle Cenozoic of Patagonia. Ed. RH Madden, G Vucetich, AA Carlini, and RF Kay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 220-239.

Teaford, M, Ungar, P, and Kay, RF. "Molar shape and molar microwear in the Koobi Fora monkeys: ecomorphological implications." Koobi Fora Research Project, Volume VI, The Fossil Monkeys. Ed. N Jablonski and MG Leakey. San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences, 2008. 337-358.

Pages

Spradley, JP, Pampush, JD, Morse, PE, and Kay, RF. "Smooth operator: The effects of different 3D mesh retriangulation protocols on the computation of Dirichlet normal energy." American journal of physical anthropology 163.1 (May 2017): 94-109. Full Text

Pampush, JD, Winchester, JM, Morse, PE, Vining, AQ, Boyer, DM, and Kay, RF. "Introducing molaR: a New R Package for Quantitative Topographic Analysis of Teeth (and Other Topographic Surfaces)." Journal of Mammalian Evolution 23.4 (December 2016): 397-412. Full Text Open Access Copy

Pampush, JD, Spradley, JP, Morse, PE, Harrington, AR, Allen, KL, Boyer, DM, and Kay, RF. "Wear and its effects on dental topography measures in howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata)." American journal of physical anthropology 161.4 (December 2016): 705-721. Full Text Open Access Copy

Fulwood, EL, Boyer, DM, and Kay, RF. "Stem members of Platyrrhini are distinct from catarrhines in at least one derived cranial feature." Journal of human evolution 100 (November 2016): 16-24. Full Text

Cuitiño, JI, Fernicola, JC, Kohn, MJ, Trayler, R, Naipauer, M, Bargo, MS, Kay, RF, and Vizcaíno, SF. "U-Pb geochronology of the Santa Cruz Formation (early Miocene) at the Río Bote and Río Santa Cruz (southernmost Patagonia, Argentina): Implications for the correlation of fossil vertebrate localities." Journal of South American Earth Sciences 70 (October 2016): 198-210. Full Text Open Access Copy

Boyer, DM, Kirk, EC, Silcox, MT, Gunnell, GF, Gilbert, CC, Yapuncich, GS, Allen, KL, Welch, E, Bloch, JI, Gonzales, LA, Kay, RF, and Seiffert, ER. "Internal carotid arterial canal size and scaling in Euarchonta: Re-assessing implications for arterial patency and phylogenetic relationships in early fossil primates." Journal of human evolution 97 (August 2016): 123-144. Full Text Open Access Copy

Spradley, JP, Glander, KE, and Kay, RF. "Dust in the wind: How climate variables and volcanic dust affect rates of tooth wear in Central American howling monkeys." American journal of physical anthropology 159.2 (February 2016): 210-222. Full Text Open Access Copy

Raigemborn, MS, Matheos, SD, Krapovickas, V, Vizcaíno, SF, Bargo, MS, Kay, RF, Fernicola, JC, and Zapata, L. "Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the coastal Monte Léon and Santa Cruz formations (Early Miocene) at Rincón del Buque, Southern Patagonia: A revisited locality." Journal of South American Earth Sciences 60 (July 2015): 31-55. Full Text Open Access Copy

Kay, RF. "Anthropology. New World monkey origins." Science (New York, N.Y.) 347.6226 (March 2015): 1068-1069. Full Text Open Access Copy

Pages

Pampush, JD, Harrington, AR, Spradley, JP, Vining, AQ, Allen, KL, and Kay, RF. "Quantitative Occlusal Surface Complexity Metrics and Dental Wear in Alouatta palliata." March 2016.

Gonzales, LA, Malinzak, MD, and Kay, RF. "The influence of brain size on canal radius of curvature." March 2016.

Spradley, JP, Williams, BA, and Kay, RF. "Environmental Variables Affecting Primate Species Richness in the Neotropics." March 2015.

Ludeman, EM, Kirk, EC, Gosselin-Ildari, AD, Blaylock, A, Kay, RF, and Godinot, M. "Cochlear labyrinth volume and predicted hearing abilities in Adapis, Necrolemur, Homunculus, and Tremacebus." 2013.

Winchester, JM, Boyer, DM, St Clair, EM, Gosselin-Ildari, AD, Cooke, SB, and Ledogar, JA. "Dental topography of platyrrhines and prosimians: Convergence and contrasts." 2013.

Fernicola, JC, Vizcaíno, SF, Bargo, MS, Kay, RF, Cuitiño, JI, Toledo, N, Muñoz, NA, Krapovikas, V, Chornogubsky, L, Hernandez del Piño, S, and Gonzales, L. "Localidades fosilíferas de la Formación Santa Cruz (Mioceno Inferior) en el margen meridional del valle del río Santa Cruz, provincia de Santa Cruz, Argentina." 2013.

Pages

Simons, EL, Ankel-Simons, F, Chatrath, PS, Kay, RS, Williams, B, Fleagle, JG, Gebo, DL, Beard, CK, Dawson, M, Tattersall, I, and Rose, KD. "Outrage at high price paid for a fossil." Nature 460.7254 (2009): 456--. Full Text

Kirk, EC, Cartmill, M, Kay, RF, and Lemelin, P. "Comment on "Grasping primate origins"." Science 300.5620 (May 2, 2003): 741-. Full Text