A parapithecid stem anthropoid of African origin in the Paleogene of South America

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Science  10 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6487, pp. 194-197
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba1135

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A South American anthropoid

Although there are many primate lineages in the Old World, it is thought that the New World is home to just one group, the platyrrhine monkeys, which appear to have colonized the region during the Eocene. Seiffert et al. describe a new primate species on the basis of fossil molars found in the Peruvian Amazon that appears to belong to the Parapithecidae, a group of stem anthropoid primates best known from northern Africa (see the Perspective by Godinot). The fossils appear to be from a well-differentiated lineage, suggesting that this species had been evolving within South America for some time. It is likely that the ancestors of this new species arrived via a transatlantic rafting event when sea levels dropped at the Eocene–Oligocene transition ∼32 to 35 million years ago.

Science, this issue p. 194; see also p. 136


Phylogenetic evidence suggests that platyrrhine (or New World) monkeys and caviomorph rodents of the Western Hemisphere derive from source groups from the Eocene of Afro-Arabia, a landmass that was ~1500 to 2000 kilometers east of South America during the late Paleogene. Here, we report evidence for a third mammalian lineage of African origin in the Paleogene of South America—a newly discovered genus and species of parapithecid anthropoid primate from Santa Rosa in Amazonian Perú. Bayesian clock–based phylogenetic analysis nests this genus (Ucayalipithecus) deep within the otherwise Afro-Arabian clade Parapithecoidea and indicates that transatlantic rafting of the lineage leading to Ucayalipithecus likely took place between ~35 and ~32 million years ago, a dispersal window that includes the major worldwide drop in sea level that occurred near the Eocene-Oligocene boundary.

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