Paleontology

African origin for New World monkeys

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Science  06 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6222, pp. 624-625
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6222.624-f

South American silvery marmosets (Mico argentatus) had an African ancestor.

PHOTO: © THOMAS MARENT/VISUALS UNLIMITED/CORBIS

New World monkeys—smallish, flat-nosed primates with prehensile tails such as silvery marmosets, golden lion tamarins, and squirrel monkeys—have inhabited South America for at least 26 million years, but it is unclear when they arrived and where they originated. Many paleontologists suspect an African origin, based on skeletal resemblances to ancient African monkeys. Now, Bond et al. describe three 36 million-year-old fossil teeth found in the Peruvian Amazon that support this idea: The shape of the teeth and phylogenetic analyses link the fossils to monkeys that inhabited Africa during the late Eocene, about 38 million years ago. The discovery also pushes back the monkeys' arrival date—perhaps by vegetation raft across the Atlantic Ocean—by 10 million years.

Nature, 10.1038/nature14120 (2014).

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