The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution

Xijun Ni*, Daniel L. Gebo, Marian Dagosto, Jin Meng, Paul Tafforeau, John J. Flynn, K. Christopher Beard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations

Abstract

Reconstructing the earliest phases of primate evolution has been impeded by gaps in the fossil record, so that disagreements persist regarding the palaeobiology and phylogenetic relationships of the earliest primates. Here we report the discovery of a nearly complete and partly articulated skeleton of a primitive haplorhine primate from the early Eocene of China, about 55 million years ago, the oldest fossil primate of this quality ever recovered. Coupled with detailed morphological examination using propagation phase contrast X-ray synchrotron microtomography, our phylogenetic analysis based on total available evidence indicates that this fossil is the most basal known member of the tarsiiform clade. In addition to providing further support for an early dichotomy between the strepsirrhine and haplorhine clades, this new primate further constrains the age of divergence between tarsiiforms and anthropoids. It also strengthens the hypothesis that the earliest primates were probably diurnal, arboreal and primarily insectivorous mammals the size of modern pygmy mouse lemurs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-64
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume498
Issue number7452
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 12 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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