Tiny Ancestor


Palaeontologists have discovered what they believe is the world’s oldest known fossil of a primate in an ancient lake bed in China. The new species, named Archicebus achilles, lived about 55 million years ago and was even smaller than today’s smallest primate, the pygmy mouse lemur. It appears to have been a tree-dweller that used a leap-and-grasp motion. The skeleton is about 7 million years older than the oldest fossil primate skeletons known till date. It belongs to an entirely separate branch of the primate evolutionary tree from those specimens, lying much closer to the lineage leading to modern monkeys, apes and humans. The discovery provides insight into the earliest phases of primate evolution and bolsters a theory that early primates first developed in Asia. 


Down To Earth, July 2013