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World’s Oldest, Arguably Most Adorable Primate Fossil Discovered in China

The newly discovered Archicebus achilles fossil points to a key time in human evolution.

Archiebus

Say hello to Archicebus achilles, the new oldest-known primate fossil. The above picture is an artistic rendering, and is noticeably cuter than the actual fossilized skeleton found in a lakebed in China. Besides being the oldest-known primate skeleton, Archicebus also provides new information for our understanding of human evolution.

The skeleton was found at the bottom of an ancient lakebed and dates back to 55 million years ago, and as the newly crowned oldest-known primate fossil it gives us new insight into where primates were in their evolution at that time. Christopher Beard was one of the coauthors of the study on Archicebus said, “It’s not just that it’s the oldest primate, but it turns out that this fossil tells us that primates had already been evolving for quite some time. This primate was already fairly advanced in terms of the evolutionary tree.”

Archicebus was small, weighing only about one ounce and measuring between seven and nine inches. It also finds itself at a key point in primate evolution, where it is at the fork in the branch of the evolutionary tree where anthropoids and tarsiers go their separate ways. It has features of both groups, some of which have never been seen before in the same fossil.

The Archicebus fossil was analyzed with a high-intensity X-ray that scanned it and produced a 3D image. It sounds a little like the beginning of Jurassic Park, only with better resolution and no mouthy little kids.

(via Popular Science, image via Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xijun Ni)

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