Anthropoid Origins

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Science  07 Feb 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5301, pp. 797-804
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5301.797

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Recent fossil discoveries have greatly increased our knowledge of the morphology and diversity of early Anthropoidea, the suborder to which humans belong. Phylogenetic analysis of Recent and fossil taxa supports the hypotheses that a haplorhine-strepsirrhine dichotomy existed at least at the time of the earliest record of fossil primates (earliest Eocene) and that eosimiids (middle Eocene, China) are primitive anthropoids. Functional analysis suggests that stem haplorhines were small, nocturnal, arboreal, visually oriented insectivore-frugivores with a scurrying-leaping locomotion. A change from nocturnality to diurnality was the fundamental adaptive shift that occurred at the base of the tarsier-eosimiid-anthropoid clade. Stem anthropoids remained small diurnal arborealists but adopted locomotor patterns with more arboreal quadrupedalism and less leaping. A shift to a more herbivorous diet occurred in several anthropoid lineages.

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