New Tarsier-like Fossil Primate Discovered

ResearchBlogging.orgPrimatologists revealed today the discovery of a tarsier-like fossil primate species found in the Eastern Pyrenees, Spain. According to Minwer-Barakat et al, most of the Pseudoloris pyrenaicus’ dentition was recovered, “including those teeth hardly known for other species of the genus, such as lower and upper incisors.”  The authors believed that based on its dental morphology, this “species shows intermediate features between Pseudoloris isabenae from Capella and Pseudoloris parvulus, present in different Spanish and French sites.”

This is the fifth Pseudoloris (Omomyidae, Primates) species described thus far, with P. parvulus as the most common species of this genera.  Primatologists suggests that this Middle Eocene primate were insectivores and survivors of a dramatic climate change around 34 million years ago.

Pseudolorises “were relatively independent from humid and densely forested habitats and, as secondary consumers, less susceptible to drastic changes in floral composition than the large folivorous adapids.” Köhler and Moyà-Solà posited that the lifestyle was a “preadaptation to endure the disappearance of tropical forests under the harder environmental conditions during the Lower Oligocene, which were less suitable for the much larger and more specialized contemporaneous primates.”

This fossil primate has also been important to the understanding of the evolution of smaller-bodied primates, such as the tarsiers. The similarity of the dental morphology to the tarsiers has been noted by the philosopher-scientist Teilhard de Chardin and by later primate taxonomists. Many are of the opinion that the tarsier/omomyid link is stronger than the tarsier/anthropoid link.

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Minwer-Barakat R, Marigó J, & Moyà-Solà S (2010). A new species of Pseudoloris (Omomyidae, Primates) from the middle Eocene of Sant Jaume de Frontanyà (Eastern Pyrenees, Spain). American journal of physical anthropology PMID: 20310058

Köhler M, & Moyà-Solà S (1999). A finding of oligocene primates on the European continent. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96 (25), 14664-7 PMID: 10588762

Simons, E. L. (2003). The fossil record of tarsier evolution Tarsiers: Past, Present, and Future, P. C. Wright, E. L. Simons and S. Gursky (eds.), pp.9–34. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.

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