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oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution

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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

Nature 498, 60–64 (06 June 2013) doi:10.1038/nature12200
Received 01 February 2013 Accepted 18 April 2013 Published online 05 June

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.


        Clair Ossian