PerspectivePaleontology

Shaking the Earliest Branches of Anthropoid Primate Evolution

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Science  14 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5746, pp. 244-245
DOI: 10.1126/science.1118124

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Summary

Primates living today are believed to share a common ancestor that originated in either Africa or Asia. Fossil examples of such anthropoid ancestors have been found in both continents, so pushing back the origins to a single location has been controversial. In their Perspective, Jaeger and Marivaux discuss results reported in the same issue by Seiffert et al. that may put part of the controversy to rest. Seiffert et al. describe the earliest and most complete African anthropoid fossils from the Fayum desert region of Egypt. Cranial and dental fossils of two different small species were found, and their character, especially the features of the fossil teeth, suggests an ancient evolutionary history in Africa. At the same time, the phylogenetic analysis of Seiffert et al. is consistent with the view that African anthropoids immigrated from Asia at a very early date, probably before the late Paleocene (60 million years ago), possibly followed by later waves of immigration.