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Step forward the earliest primate – it’s the Archicebus, whose fossil was found in China

fossil primateThe dinosaurs held sway for over 250 million years until an asteroid or comet came along 65 million years ago and wiped them out (and scattered an iridium layer between our rock strata).  To put this in perspective, reflect that humans have only been around for about 3 million years.  Only ten million years after the cosmic catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs, this little fellow came along.  His remains have been revealed in a Chinese fossil.  He’s about the size of a mouse, but he’s a primate – the earliest one ever discovered.  The name Archicebus approximates to “little monkey,” and he has several monkey-like features.

china primate“Particular features of Archicebus’ skeleton suggest it would have used a leap-and-grasp motion as it traversed through these great forests.  Its small pointy teeth indicate that it ate insects. Certainly, its size would have meant it had a high metabolic rate, and preying on insects would have satisfied its calorie needs.  And the creature’s relatively large eye sockets suggest it had good vision for hunting, although the team says the evidence points towards Archicebus being a daytime operator, not a nocturnal animal.  One of the most significant observations is the shape of its heel bone. Far from being like a tarsier’s calcaneus, the bone is more reminiscent of what one would expect in an anthropoid.”

It’s thought that the creature is a very early ancestor of the tarsiers, and probably emerged very soon after that group diverged from the anthropods, the group that eventually gave rise to monkeys, apes and humans.  It gives us a fascinating look into how primates first evolved in the lush steaming jungles of the post-dinosaur earth.  And as we see from the artist’s reconstruction, it’s also pretty cute.  If these creatures were around today, they would probably be very popular as pets.


One Response

  1. here’s the study:

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