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Chinese Fossil Discovery Casts New Light On Origin Of Primates

posted 6 Jun 2013, 13:08 by Mpelembe   [ updated 6 Jun 2013, 13:09 ]

The long-held belief that primates began their evolution in Africa has been called into question following the discovery in China, of the oldest known primate fossil. An international team of researchers announced in this month's Nature journal, the discovery of Archicebus achilles eleven years after it was found and more than 55 million years after it died. Rob Muir reports.

HUBEI PR0VINCE, CHINA (Dr. Paul Tafforeau of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility / Dr. Xijun Ni, Chinese Academy of Sciences) - Archicebus achilles was about the size of a large mouse. By digitally reconstructing the two divided halves of the fossil, the researchers have been able to examine it in detail, from its small eyes to its large, monkey-like feet.

Scientists say it represents a point in evolution were primates diverged into two groups, tarsier primates and anthropoids, whose modern descendants include monkeys and humans.

Archicebus was discovered in 2002 in central China, in rocks deposited roughly 55 million years ago.

It has taken more than ten years of analysis for the scientists to declare Archicebus, the world's oldest known primate fossil, raising new questions about when and where the evolution of modern primates began.