PerspectiveAnthropology

New World monkey origins

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Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1068-1069
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9217

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Summary

New World monkeys (Platyrrhini) appeared suddenly in South America in the middle Cenozoic. Little is certain about their origin, but theories include an African source, either by vicariance through Cretaceous rifting of South America from Africa, or an Atlantic Ocean raft crossing in the middle Cenozoic. A recent fossil discovery in Amazonian Peru reported by Bond et al. (1) has identified the oldest platyrrhine primate (named Perupithecus) at 36 million years ago (Ma), with features that suggest links to African anthropoids of similar age. Although the new fossils reinforce the African rafting source, the details of the author's origin scenario will be controversial.