Friday, July 16, 2010

Fossil Find of Primate at Juncture of Apes and Monkeys

The Guardian has a story on the fossil find in Saudia Arabia that is possibly the earliest example of an Old World Monkey and dates to the time thought to be the split with OWMs and apes. Ian Sample writes:
The skull and teeth show that the animal, named Saadanius hijazensis, had similar teeth to Old World monkeys. Unlike apes, it lacked a frontal sinus (which is responsible for the feeling of "brain freeze" sometimes caused by eating ice-cream).

By comparing the remains of Saadanius with other ancient primates, the researchers put the date of the evolutionary split at between 29m and 27m years ago.

"The roots of apes, humans and monkeys go back a long way. We were interested to know when these ancient primates diverged because, in a way, that's when we got our start," said William Sanders, an author on the paper at the University of Michigan's Museum of Palaeontology.
Watch the video at the story. It is very informative. In the video, Laura MacClatchy argues that this specimen is really not a monkey and it is not really an ape, but is more like a basal primate either just before or just after the split (think "frogamander"). Phil Gingerich says that this is really a "missing link," a term he does not shy away from.

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