He Looks Just Like My Uncle

7 Jun

oldest-primate-skeleton-discovered-in-chinaThe fossilized bones of the earliest-recovered primate, Archicebus achilles, come from Hubei provincei, China. He’s so cute.

A farmer uncovered the fossil in a lakebed in China’s east-central Hubei Province a decade ago. Researchers used a synchrotron, a source of extremely high-powered X-rays, to visualize the near-complete skeleton without having to remove it from the surrounding rock and risk damaging its fragile frame.

They determined that the tiny, long-tailed animal would have been about the size of mouse, weighing in at just under an ounce. Its sharp teeth point to a diet of insects, and its small eyes suggest that it hunted during the day, not at night.

The kicker, though, is the primate’s heel, hence the achilles in its name. The skeleton is the earliest known fossil from the branch of the primate family tree that leads toward present-day tarsiers, yet the structure of the heel bones suggests it leapt through the forest more like our modern monkey relatives than the vertically oriented tarsiers. This narrows down the window of time in which tarsier-type primates split off from the rest of us, including monkeys, apes and humans…

Like tarsiers, these primates were strictly carnivorous. Not exactly blood-thirsty, Vladimir Putin-type men. It just goes to show that all of humanity’s supposed hunting and martial prowess might come from leafs, nuts, and roots, all blended in a delicate soup and served with a fine honey pale ale.

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