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

Functional Analysis of Primate Semicircular Canal Morphology in Relation to Locomotor Head Accelerations awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2008 to 2010

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: The Role of Binocular Vision in Primate Evolution awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2005 to 2008

Evaluating the contribution of Late Cretaceous Biogeography to Earliest Cenozoic Biodiversity awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2002 to 2007

Paleontological Investigations to Recover Fossil Monkeys From the Middle Cenozoic awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2006

The First Near-Complete Skull of a Late Cretaceous Multituberculate from North America: ... awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2005

Collaborative Research: The Impact of Late Eocene/Early Oligocene Climate Change awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2004

An environmental scanning electron microscope for DU awarded by National Science Foundation (Co-Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2003

Collaborative Research: Paleonotological Investigations To awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1994 to 2001

Paleontologic Recovery and Reconnaisance at Grant Barranca, Argentina awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1999 to 2000

Exploring For Paleogene Primates In Bolivia awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1992 to 1993

Pages

Kirk, EC, and Kay, RF. "The evolution of high visual acuity in the Anthropoidea." Anthropoid Origins: New Visions. Ed. CF Ross and RF Kay. New York: Kluwer/Plenum Publishing, 2004. 539-602.

Kay, RF, Williams, BA, Ross, CF, Takai, M, and Shigehara, N. "Anthropoid origins: a phylogenetic analysis." Anthropoid Origins: New Visions. Ed. CF Ross and RF Kay. New York: Kluwer/Plenum, 2004. 91-135.

Ross, CF, and Kay, RF. "Evolving perspectives on Anthropoidea." Anthropoid Origins: New Visions. Ed. CF Ross and RF Kay. New York: Kulwer/Plenum, 2004. 3-41.

Ross, CF, and Kay, R. "Anthropoid Origins: Retrospective and Prospective." Anthropoid Origins: New Visions. Ed. CF Ross and RF Kay. New York: Kluwer/Plenum Publishing, 2004. 699-737.

Kay, RF, Williams, BA, and Anaya, F. "The adaptations of Branisella boliviana, the earliest South American monkey." Reconstructing Behavior in the Primate Fossil Record. Ed. JM Plavcan, C van Schaik, RF Kay, and WL Jungers. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2002. 339-370.

Van Couvering, JA, and Kay, RF. "Oligocene." Encyclopedia of Evolution and Prehistory, 2nd Edition. Ed. E Delson, I Tattersall, JA VanCouvering, and A Brooks. New York: Garland Pub. Co, 2000. 489-490.

Kay, RF, and Van Couvering, JA. "Fayum." Encyclopedia of Evolution and Prehistory, 2nd Edition. Ed. E Delson, I Tattersall, JA VanCouvering, and A Brooks. New York: Garland Pub. Co, 2000. 265-267.

Kay, RF, and Delson, E. "Oligopithecidae." Encyclopedia of Evolution and Prehistory, 2nd Edition. Ed. E Delson, I Tattersall, JA VanCouvering, and A Brooks. New York: Garland Pub. Co., 2000. 490-493.

Kay, RF. "Diet." Encyclopedia of Evolution and Prehistory, 2nd Edition. Ed. E Delson, I Tattersall, JA VanCouvering, and A Brooks. New York: Garland Pub. Co., 2000. 208-212.

Kay, RF. "Parapithecidae." Encyclopedia of Evolution and Prehistory, 2nd Edition. Ed. E Delson, I Tattersall, JA VanCouvering, and A Brooks. New York: Garland Pub. Co., 2000. 545-548.

Pages

Boyer, DM, Winchester, J, and Kay, RF. "The effect of differences in methodology among some recent applications of shearing quotients." American journal of physical anthropology 156.1 (January 2015): 166-178. Full Text Open Access Copy

Allen, KL, Cooke, SB, Gonzales, LA, and Kay, RF. "Dietary inference from upper and lower molar morphology in platyrrhine primates." PloS one 10.3 (January 2015): e0118732-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Fernicola, JC, Cuitiño, JI, Vizcaíno, SF, Bargo, MS, and Kay, RF. "Fossil localities of the Santa Cruz Formation (Early Miocene, Patagonia, Argentina) prospected by Carlos Ameghino in 1887 revisited and the location of the Notohippidian." Journal of South American Earth Sciences 52 (July 2014): 94-107. Full Text Open Access Copy

Patnaik, R, Milankumar Sharma, K, Mohan, L, Williams, BA, Kay, RF, and Chatrath, P. "Additional Vertebrate Remains from the Early Miocene of Kutch, Gujarat." Special Publication of the Paleontological Society of India 5 (2014): 335-351. Open Access Copy

Malinzak, MD, Kay, RF, and Hullar, TE. "Locomotor head movements and semicircular canal morphology in primates." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109.44 (October 8, 2012): 17914-17919. Full Text Open Access Copy

Kay, RF. "Evidence for an Asian origin of stem anthropoids." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109.26 (June 26, 2012): 10132-10133. Full Text Open Access Copy

Allen, KL, and Kay, RF. "Dietary quality and encephalization in platyrrhine primates." Proc Biol Sci 279.1729 (February 22, 2012): 715-721. Full Text Open Access Copy

Wilson, LAB, Madden, RH, Kay, RF, and Sánchez-Villagra, MR. "Testing a developmental model in the fossil record: Molar proportions in South American ungulates." Paleobiology 38.2 (2012): 308-321. Full Text Open Access Copy

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