Deeper roots for the primates.
Colleagues at the Florida museum of Natural History propose deeper roots to primate origins based on a study of a complete fossil in Wyoming. The news story begins:
GAINESVILLE, Fla.: A new study led by a University of Florida paleontologist reconstructs the base of our family tree and extends its roots 10 million years, a finding that sheds new light on the origin and earliest stages of primate evolution.
Published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and featured on the cover of its Jan. 23 print edition, the study offers compelling evidence that a group of archaic mammals called plesiadapiforms (please-ee-ah-dape-i-forms) are more closely related to modern primates than to flying lemurs, which previously had been proposed.
The two-part study examined specimens representing more than 85 modern and extinct species and provides evidence that plesiadapiforms are the most primitive primates. The team also discovered two 56-million-year-old fossils, the most primitive primate skeletons ever described.
"These fossil finds from Wyoming show that our earliest primate ancestors were the size of a mouse, ate fruit and lived in the trees," said study leader Jonathan Bloch, a vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "It is remarkable to think we are still discovering new fossil species in an area studied by paleontologists for over 100 years."
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