Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Six new ancient primate species capture climate change pressures

MAY 6, 2016

by Chuck Bednar

Antropoid primates– the forerunners of modern apes, monkeys and humans – first appeared in Asia, but what happened to them when climate change rendered much of the region too cold to be hospitable? A study published this week in the journal Science may have the answer.

“At the Eocene-Oligocene boundary, because of the rearrangement of Earth's major tectonic plates, you had a rapid drop in temperature and humidity,” K. Christopher Beard, senior curator at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and co-author of the new study, explained in a statement. “Primates like it warm and wet, so they faced hard times around the world.”

In North America and Europe, the creatures died out when this cooling began approximately 34 million years ago, but managed to survive in Africa and Southern Asia. Now, the discovery of a half-dozen new fossil primate species in southern China had revealed that the transitional period nearly wiped out these creatures, forcing them to migrate to Africa to survive and evolve.

Beard and his colleagues spent more than a decade working at a site in the Yunnan Province of southern China, where they managed to unearthed jaw and tooth fragments belonging to six new species of primates that help explained what happened to our forerunners during this period.

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