A New Transitional Anthropoid from North Africa?

Readers might recall from our discussion of afrotarsiids that some paleontologists now incorporate this group within the radiation of mostly Asian stem anthropoids known as eosimiiforms. Well, in July, several members of the same team that discovered the early afrotarsiid fossils described a new putative early anthropoid from the middle Eocene (~40 Ma) of Tunisia (Marivaux et al. 2014). They further suggest that this fossil may represent a transitional form linking eosimiiforms and the simiiform radiation of crown and advanced stem anthropoids.

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Tarsiers (?) in Time, Part II

Reconstruction and comparison of Afrotarsius and Afrasia molars, from Wikimedia Commons

Reconstruction and comparison of Afrotarsius and Afrasia upper molars, from Wikimedia Commons

This week we’ll return to our look at the fossil record of tarsiers and their putative relatives with a much more controversial group of primates, the afrotarsiids. This group of three known species was first assigned to the tarsiidae, but is now often argued to represent a group of early stem anthropoids. For my overview of the certain members of the Tarsiidae, see Part I.

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Java Gibbon

Paleontological sites in eastern Java

Paleontological sites in eastern Java, from Ingiccio et al. (2014)

If the distinguished reader confesses much familiarity with the history of paleoanthropology, he or she might recognize the name “Trinil.” This site, now thought to date to around 1 Ma, was the type locality for the famous Java Man described by Eugene Dubois as Pithecanthropus erectus in 1894. Fossils of other animals collected by Dubois at Trinil have, perhaps understandably, received less popular attention. However, they include the oldest record of primates from island Southeast Asia, a langur Trachypithecus auratus and macaque Macaca fascicularis. Now, writing in PLOS One, Thomas Ingiccio and colleagues have reanalyzed another specimen of Dubois’s collection from Trinil and report it to represent the earliest evidence of a fossil ape from the whole of Southeast Asia.

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Tarsiers in Time, Part I

Eastern Tarsier, from Wikimedia Commons

Eastern tarsier, from Wikimedia Commons

Let us inaugurate this blogging adventure with some of my favorite primates. Tarsiers’ unique, derived morphology, possible relationships to anthropoids and the fossil omomyids, and and apparently deep history as an independent lineage make them particularly intriguing from the perspective of primate paleontology.


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