Monkeys reached Americas about 36 million years ago | Science News

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Monkeys reached Americas about 36 million years ago

Peruvian fossils suggest ancient African primates somehow crossed the ocean

1:00pm, February 4, 2015

OLD TIES  Roughly 36-million-year-old primates from Peru and Libya (rough reconstructions shown) display similarities that, like fossils of these creatures, denote a spread of ancient primates from Africa to South America. Red dots show fossil sites.

A handful of roughly 36-million-year-old fossil teeth unearthed in Peru have put new bite into the idea that ancient African monkeylike primates somehow reached South America and sparked the evolution of New World monkeys. Although scientists previously suspected that African animals got the primate ball rolling in the Americas, the Peruvian finds provide the first fossil backup for the scenario.

Two complete and two partial molar teeth excavated on a riverbank in Peru’s Amazon region represent the oldest known New World primates, says a team led by paleontologist Mariano Bond of the La Plata Museum in Argentina. The finds, from a species the authors dub Perupithecus ucayaliensis, closely resemble previously reported teeth of North African primates that lived between 39 million and 35 million years ago, the investigators report online February 4 in Nature.

Teeth of living and extinct

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