Preliminary description of the cranium of Proteopithecus sylviae, an Egyptian late Eocene anthropoidean primate.
Recent discovery of crania, dentitions, and postcrania of a primitive anthropoidean primate, Proteopithecus sylviae, at the late Eocene L-4l quarry in the Fayum, Egypt, provides evidence of a new taxonomic family of early African higher primates, the Proteopithecidae. This family could be part of the basal radiation that produced the New World platyrrhine primates, or it could be unrelated to any subsequent lineages. Although no larger than a small callitrichid or a dwarf lemur, this tiny primate already possessed many of the derived features of later anthropoids and was a diurnal and probably dimorphic species. In dental formula and other dental proportions, as well as in known postcranial features, Proteopithecus more nearly resembles platyrrhines than does any other Old World higher primate. The small size of the Proteopithecus cranium demonstrates that the defining cranial characteristics of Anthropoidea did not arise as a consequence of an increase in size during derivation from earlier prosimians.
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