STL Science Center

STL Science Center

19 December 2014

That Prehensile Tail

© Xijun Ni
The first primates are probably what the populace thinks of when one says something like "prominent early mammals". Therefore, as the last of the strictly mammal weeks here, I present to allthe earliest recognized primate, Archicebus achilles Ni et al 2013. This little tree-scrambling primate is considered the first "haplorhine" or dry-nosed primate, a group that monkeys, apes, and humans all belong to as well. Its discovery in Asia supports hypotheses that primates first began to evolve in Asia and later migrated toward and eventually into Africa, where it is known that humans later evolved and originally migrated from. The name of the animal originated from the Greek and Latin combination meaning "Beginning monkey" with a reference to Achilles, supposedly due to a significantly novel calcaneus discovered in the fossil. The animal is comparable in weight to the smallest extant primates (Mouse Lemurs) but is thought to have been active during the day rather than nocturnally, like most small mammals were, and still largely are, when this little creature first began to confidently stride around on the planet.

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