Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

His body says oldest known primate, but his eyes say cheap Halloween decoration

Or pervert.

His body says oldest known primate, but his eyes say cheap Halloween decoration

Xijun Ni, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Or pervert. Definitely pervert. This creepy-looking dude is an early ancestor of the small tree-dwelling primates known as tarsiers, and our distant cousin. He’s a reconstruction based on the oldest primate skeleton that we’ve found, deposited in China some 55 million years ago.

The slender-limbed, long-tailed primate, described today in Nature, was about the size of today’s pygmy mouse lemur and would have weighed between 20 and 30 grams, the researchers estimate. The mammal sports an odd blend of features, with its skull, teeth and limb bones having proportions resembling those of tarsiers, but its heel and foot bones more like anthropoids. “This mosaic of features hasn’t been seen before in any living or fossil primate,” says study author Christopher Beard, a paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

By analyzing almost 1,200 morphological aspects of the fossil and comparing them to those of 156 other extant and extinct mammals, the team put the ancient primate near the base of the tarsier family tree. Dubbed Archicebus achilles, the creature’s genus name roughly translates as 'original long-tailed monkey', whereas the species name is a wry nod to the creature’s anthropoid-like heel bone. [Scientific American]

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