Early Primate Weighed Less Than an Ounce
After 10 years of exhaustive analysis, an international team of researchers has unveiled a tiny fossil skeleton that is among the oldest primates ever discovered. Dubbed Archicebus achilles, the diminutive creature lived 55 million years ago in a tropical forest in what is now central China, where its body was entombed in rock at the bottom of an ancient lakebed. Now, scientists hope that its fossilized bones will help answer some fundamental questions about how, when, and where our earliest primate ancestors evolved.
While most other early primates are represented in the fossil record by a few teeth or a foot bone here and there, A. achilles looks remarkably good for its age. Its hind legs and nearly all the vertebrae in its long tail are strikingly well-preserved, giving scientists a clear picture of the animal’s lower half. And with the help of powerful x-rays generated by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, the researchers even managed to reconstruct key features of its partially crushed skull.