A fossil primate of uncertain affinities from the earliest late Eocene of Egypt.

Published

Journal Article

Paleontological work carried out over the last 3 decades has established that three major primate groups were present in the Eocene of Africa-anthropoids, adapiforms, and advanced strepsirrhines. Here we describe isolated teeth of a previously undocumented primate from the earliest late Eocene ( approximately 37 Ma) of northern Egypt, Nosmips aenigmaticus, whose phylogenetic placement within Primates is unclear. Nosmips is smaller than the sympatric adapiform Afradapis but is considerably larger than other primate taxa known from the same paleocommunity. The species bears an odd mosaic of dental features, combining enlarged, elongate, and molariform premolars with simple upper molars that lack hypocones. Phylogenetic analysis across a series of different assumption sets variously places Nosmips as a stem anthropoid, a nonadapiform stem strepsirrhine, or even among adapiforms. This phylogenetic instability suggests to us that Nosmips likely represents a highly specialized member of a previously undocumented, and presumably quite ancient, endemic African primate lineage, the subordinal affinities of which have been obscured by its striking dental autapomorphies. Discriminant functions based on measurements of lower molar size and topography reliably classify extant prosimian primates into their correct dietary groups and identify Nosmips and Afradapis as omnivores and folivores, respectively. Although Nosmips currently defies classification, this strange and unexpected fossil primate nevertheless provides additional evidence for high primate diversity in northern Africa approximately 37 million years ago and further underscores the fact that our understanding of early primate evolution on that continent remains highly incomplete.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Seiffert, ER; Simons, EL; Boyer, DM; Perry, JMG; Ryan, TM; Sallam, HM

Published Date

  • May 10, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 107 / 21

Start / End Page

  • 9712 - 9717

PubMed ID

  • 20457923

Pubmed Central ID

  • 20457923

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0027-8424

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.1001393107

Language

  • eng