Fossil primate discovery in Libya

This video is called The Primate Fossil Ida – Science Review.

From The Great Beyond blog:

New primate fossils point to great African migration – October 27, 2010

Long before human ancestors began leaving Africa, their primate forebears may have arrived there en masse from Asia, some 40 million years ago.

An international team of palaeontologists excavating a rock formation in southern Libya have uncovered the fossil remains of several species of anthropoid primates, the group that gave rise to today’s monkeys, apes and, of course, humans. Their find is published online today in Nature.

A number of previous fossils have pointed to an Asian origin for these primates, but when and how they got to Africa has been in question.

The new fossils are about 38 to 39 million years old, and none of the animals would have weighed more than 500 grams, conclude a team led by Jean-Jacques Jaeger, a palaeontologist at the University of Poiters, France. Their diminutive size fits in with previous research suggesting that early anthropoids started small and eventually evolved ever bigger bodies.

Jaeger’s team was surprised to find so many different kinds of anthropoids at the Libyan site, including one species, Afrotarsius libycus, which they say resembles early anthropoids from Asia. Afrotarsius had previously been considered a member of another primate group called tarsiers, but Jaeger’s team say its teeth look more like those of an anthropoid.

The anthropoids uncovered by Jaeger’s team also suggest that an eclectic group of the animals trekked from Asia to Africa, and not a single lineage that diversified after it made it to the continent. “We think there is a strong wave of migration from Asia to Africa shortly before 40 million years ago,” he says. “Now we have to unravel the details of the migration.”

Erik Seiffert, a palaeontologist who studies early primate evolution at Stony Brook University in New York, calls the find “interesting and important.” But he thinks the fossils are about 3 million years younger than Jaeger’s team claim, and he questions whether Afrotarsius libycus is really an anthropoid and not a tarsier.

“I agree that evidence seems to support a dispersal of anthropoids from Asia to Africa at some point in the middle Eocene,” the period between 37-48 million years ago, “but we still don’t know exactly when because there is a big gap in Africa’s middle Eocene record,” Seiffert says.

See also here. And here.

An international team of researchers has announced the discovery of Afrasia djijidae, a new fossil primate from Myanmar that illuminates a critical step in the evolution of early anthropoids—the group that includes humans, apes, and monkeys. The 37-million-year-old Afrasia closely resembles another early anthropoid, Afrotarsius libycus, recently discovered at a site of similar age in the Sahara Desert of Libya. The close similarity between Afrasia and Afrotarsius indicates that early anthropoids colonized Africa only shortly before the time when these animals lived. The colonization of Africa by early anthropoids was a pivotal step in primate and human evolution, because it set the stage for the later evolution of more advanced apes and humans there. The scientific paper describing the discovery appears today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: here.

On the 20th February 2009, eight days after Darwin’s 200th birthday, a conference about Attitude and Knowledge regarding Evolution and Science in Europe (EWEWE – Einstellung und Wissen zu Evolution und Wissenschaft in Europa) took place which had been organized by the occupational group Biology of TU Dortmund. The conference turned out to be a surprising success. Due to the big and wide interest, Springer Press documented the conference contributions, so that they are available to the public: here.

5 thoughts on “Fossil primate discovery in Libya

  1. Pingback: Tunisian fossil primate discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Purgatorius, world’s oldest primate? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Extinct dinosaurs’ and birds’ long names | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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