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Thread: Fossils Point to Asian Origin of Primates

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    Senior Member Englisc's Avatar
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    Fossils Point to Asian Origin of Primates

    For decades, scientists thought that the story of human evolution was fairly straightforward: We and our primate ancestors evolved in Africa over millions of years, then started crossing continents and traversing seas to reach all the places we’re found today. Simple (ish).



    But then, in the 1990s, researchers in China made a surprising discovery: The fossil of a tiny monkey-like creature that was some 10 million years older than anything that had been found in Africa. The ancestors of apes, and ultimately us, seemed to have come from Asia. But they hadn’t stayed there.

    “There were a lot of questions,” said K. Christopher Beard, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas. “What caused it was the biggest kind of cosmic question, because we always want to answer ‘why?’ But even things like ‘when?’ and ‘how?’ were a mystery.”

    Decades later, “the full story is only now emerging,” Beard said. And a new discovery could help fill in the gaps.

    [New monkey fossils suggest the primates made a wild migration across the sea]

    In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, Beard and his colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing report on an “incredible cache” of fossils from 10 previously unknown species uncovered in China’s Yunnan province. These fossils help illuminate a new story of our evolution: one in which our primate ancestors evolved in Asia, sailed across a narrow sea to Africa, then were pushed to extinction on their home continent because of drastic climate change. Some of the only primates that survived were the ones whose fossils were just uncovered — primitive creatures that were closer to lemurs than apes and humans living today.

    “It’s a little complicated,” Beard said, almost sheepishly.

    You don’t say.

    This more convoluted version of our history begins in the Eocene, some 40 million years ago. At this time, Earth’s climate was hot and humid, and the continents were just beginning to move into the positions they hold today. India was zooming headlong toward the bottom of Asia (the inevitable collision would one day give rise to the Himalayas). An inland sea flooded the center of the Eurasian land mass. And Africa was an island continent, separated from Asia and Europe by a narrow stretch of ocean.

    Early anthropoid (humanlike) monkeys were flourishing in Asia at that time. But they also, somehow, found a way to migrate across the watery barrier to Africa. And since monkeys don’t really swim, scientists’ best theory about their migration is — I kid you not — that they sailed across on rafts made of trees.

    “You’re laughing,” Beard said, “but it’s now known that this happened repeatedly. Because of the greenhouse conditions, a lot of monsoons were hitting Asia at the time. When that happens, rivers would flood, riverbanks erode. A half an acre of land with a bunch of trees growing out of it falls into a river and floats out to sea.”

    “And if there are a bunch of monkeys hanging out in the trees when that happens,” he continued, “suddenly those monkeys become sailors.”
    more https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...ionary-puzzle/

    Here's the study: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6286/673

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    If I read it correctly, anthropoids died out in Asia but the ancestors of lorises survived. Cause was supposedly climatic shift. If so why are there no temperate lorises?

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    Didn't they find some old monkey bones in the New World recently?

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    Didn't they find some old monkey bones in the New World recently?
    A probable capuchin from North America yes.

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