3D Reconstruction of Fossilized Skull of South American Miocene Monkey Homunculus patagonicus: An Augmented Reality for Field Application

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Johns Hopkins University
For most Miocene taxa, primate fossil evidence consists of broken cranial bones, teeth, and jaws. Studying these fossils is difficult due to the damage and distortion during geological stress. During fossilization the soft tissue preservation of these specimens is usually nonexistent. Homunculus patagonicus is an unusual primate from the Miocene epoch (~17 million years old) of extreme southern Argentina. The first associated cranium and mandible of this species will allow the most complete reconstruction of the adaptations of any early platyrrhine. To reconstruct the diet of such extinct mammals, the jaws, skull and muscles of mastication provide insight into how food properties influence skull morphology over evolutionary time (Perry, 2018). This project allows the use of comparative anatomy to learn how H. patagonicus lived, and its relationship to its environment through an examination of dietary adaptations. Using extant analogs, correlations can be made between muscle and bone dimensions providing informed inferences about feeding behaviors in fossils. Inferences can be validated because, “Diet and mastication are closely tied to hard anatomy” (Perry, 2008). Thus, access to data from living analogs makes reconstructions of mastication especially justifiable for early primates (Perry, 2008). This data can be then used to recreate the magnitude and orientation of the force produced by the adductor muscles. These variables can be used to better understand the properties of foods and how they relate to food processing anatomy and behavior (Perry et al. 2011). This project leverages digital visualization techniques to provide an interactive application using the digital fossil reconstruction of Homunculus patagonicus. The reconstruction of the skull and jaw adductor muscles are implemented through an interactive iOS application in addition to the original CT fossil data, extant distribution maps, and primate phylogeny. This application will not only provide researchers, students and the general public a learning resource but will also contribute to the fields of virtual paleontology, biocommunication and plastic surgery, especially facial reconstruction.
Homunculus patagonicus, augmented reality, iOS application, unity