Fossil described in June 6 edition of prestigious journal, Nature
An international team of paleontologists that includes Northern Illinois University anthropologist Dan Gebo is announcing the discovery of a nearly complete, articulated skeleton of a new tiny, tree-dwelling primate dating back 55 million years.
The Eocene Epoch fossil was recovered from Hubei Province in central China.
“This is the oldest primate skeleton of this quality and completeness ever discovered and one of the most primitive primate fossils ever documented,” Gebo said. “The origin of primates sets the first milestone for all primate lineages, including that of humanity.
“Although scientists have found primate teeth, jaws, occasionally skulls or a few limb bones from this time period, none of this evidence is as complete as this new skeleton from China,” Gebo added. “With completeness comes more information and better evidence for the adaptive and evolutionary themes concerning primate evolution. It takes guessing out of the game.”
The research team, led by Xijun Ni of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, describes the fossil in the June 6 edition of the prestigious science journal, Nature.
Other authors on the article include Marian Dagosto of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago; K. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh; Paul Tafforeau of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France; and Jin Meng and John Flynn of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Ni said that while doing fieldwork years ago in Hubei Province, he first came across the fossil, which had been found by a local farmer and was later donated to the IVPP. The fossil was encased within a rock and discovered after the rock was split open, yielding fossils and impressions of the primate on each side of the two halves.
It was discovered in a quarry that had once been a lake and is known for producing ancient fish and bird fossils from the Eocene Epoch. The quarry is near Jingzhou City, south of the Yangtze River, and about 270 kilometers southwest of Wuhan City, the province capital.
“This region would have been a large series of lakes, surrounded by lush tropical forests during the early Eocene,” Ni said. “Our analysis shows this new primate was very small and would have weighed less than an ounce. It had slender limbs and a long tail, would have been an excellent arboreal leaper, active during the daytime, and mainly fed on insects.”
The fossil has been named, Archicebus achilles.
- Scientists discover oldest primate skeleton (esciencenews.com)
- Fossil suggests human ancestors ‘smaller than rats’ (wantchinatimes.com)
- Earliest Primate Skeleton And ‘Cousin’ Of Human Ancestor Discovered In China (secretsofthefed.com)
- Paleontologists have discovered the oldest complete primate skeleton (io9.com)
- Oldest primate fossil (southofheaven.typepad.com)
- First long-tailed monkey is oldest-ever primate: scientists (abc.net.au)
- Tiny creature’s Achilles heel makes it almost human – The Age (theage.com.au)
- Oldest Well-Preserved Fossil Primate Found in China (namelessmag.jasunni.com)