Navigation Links
Anthropologist discovers new fossil primate species in West Texas
Date:5/16/2011

AUSTIN, TexasPhysical anthropologist Chris Kirk has announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of fossil primate, Mescalerolemur horneri, in the Devil's Graveyard badlands of West Texas.

Mescalerolemur lived during the Eocene Epoch about 43 million years ago, and would have most closely resembled a small present-day lemur. Mescalerolemur is a member of an extinct primate group the adapiforms that were found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in the Eocene. However, just like Mahgarita stevensi, a younger fossil primate found in the same area in 1973, Mescalerolemur is more closely related to Eurasian and African adapiforms than those from North America.

"These Texas primates are unlike any other Eocene primate community that has ever been found in terms of the species that are represented," says Kirk, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin. "The presence of both Mescalerolemur and Mahgarita, which are only found in the Big Bend region of Texas, comes after the more common adapiforms from the Eocene of North America had already become extinct. This is significant because it provides further evidence of faunal interchange between North America and East Asia during the Middle Eocene."

By the end of the Eocene, primates and other tropically adapted species had all but disappeared from North America due to climatic cooling, so Kirk is sampling the last burst of diversity in North American primates. With its lower latitudes and more equable climate, West Texas offered warm-adapted species a greater chance of survival after the cooling began.

Kirk says Marie Butcher, a then undergraduate who graduated with degrees in anthropology and biology from The University of Texas at Austin, found the first isolated tooth of Mescalerolemur in 2005. Since that time, many more primate fossils have been recovered by Kirk and more than 20 student volunteers at a locality called "Purple Bench." This fossil locality is three to four million years older than the Devil's Graveyard sediments that had previously produced Mahgarita stevensi.

"I initially thought that we had found a new, smaller species of Mahgarita," Kirk says.

However, as more specimens were prepared at the Texas Memorial Museum's Vertebrate Paleontology Lab, Kirk realized he had discovered not just a new species, but a new genus that was previously unknown to science.

Fossils of Mescalerolemur reveal it was a small primate, weighing only about 370 grams. This body weight is similar to that of the living greater dwarf lemur. Mescalerolemur's dental anatomy reveals a close evolutionary relationship with adapiform primates from Eurasia and Africa, including Darwinius masillae, a German fossil primate previously claimed to be a human ancestor. However, the discovery of Mescalerolemur provides further evidence that adapiform primates like Darwinius are more closely related to living lemurs and bush babies than they are to humans.

For example, the right and left halves of Mescalerolemur's lower jaws were two separate bones with a joint along the midline, a common trait for lemurs and bush babies. Mahgarita stevensi, the closest fossil relative of Mescalerolemur, had a completely fused jaw joint like that of humans.

"Because Mescalerolemur and Mahgarita are close relatives, fusion of the lower jaws in Mahgarita must have occurred independently from that observed in humans and their relatives, the monkeys and apes" Kirk says.

The new genus is named Mescalerolemur after the Mescalero Apache, who inhabited the Big Bend region of Texas from about 1700-1880. The species name, horneri, honors Norman Horner, an entomologist and professor emeritus at Midwestern State University (MSU) in Wichita Falls, Texas. Horner helped to establish MSU's Dalquest Desert Research Site, where the new primate fossils were found.

Kirk and his colleague Blythe Williams of Duke University will publish their findings in the Journal of Human Evolution article, "New adapiform primate of Old World affinities from the Devil's Graveyard Formation of Texas."


'/>"/>

Contact: Chris Kirk
eckirk@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-0056
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Missouri elk are being reintroduced in the wrong part of the state, MU anthropologist says
2. Recently analyzed fossil was not human ancestor as claimed, anthropologists say
3. Hobbit fossils represent a new species, concludes University of Minnesota anthropologist
4. Texas A&M anthropologist discovers long-lost primate in Indonesia
5. CAMH researcher discovers new gene that causes intellectual disability
6. URI scientist discovers 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup
7. Scripps Research team discovers new details about medically important protein family
8. U of Alberta researcher discovers potential cancer therapy target
9. Scripps Research scientist discovers natural molecule indirectly prevents stable clot formation
10. LSU oceanography researcher discovers toxic algae in open water
11. UNC team discovers promising target for new pancreatic cancer treatments
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Anthropologist discovers new fossil primate species in West Texas
(Date:6/22/2016)... 2016 On Monday, the Department of Homeland ... share solutions for the Biometric Exit Program. The Request ... Protection (CBP), explains that CBP intends to add biometrics ... the United States , in order to deter ... Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20160622/382209LOGO ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint attendance control ... right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening of doors. ... ... ... Photo - ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... , June 2, 2016   The Weather Company ... announcing Watson Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers will ... being able to ask questions via voice or text and ... Marketers have long sought an ... consumer, that can be personal, relevant and valuable; and can ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... NC (PRWEB) , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... mission to bring innovative medical technologies, services and solutions to the healthcare market. ... and implementation of various distribution, manufacturing, sales and marketing strategies that are necessary ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016  Liquid Biotech ... the funding of a Sponsored Research Agreement with ... tumor cells (CTCs) from cancer patients.  The funding ... CTC levels correlate with clinical outcomes in cancer ... data will then be employed to support the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range ... place between the two entities said Poloz. Speaking ... Ottawa , he pointed to the country,s inflation ... federal government. "In ... "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not sit down ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... While the majority of commercial spectrophotometers and ... and the 6000i models are higher end machines that use the more unconventional z-dimension ... light beam from the bottom of the cuvette holder. , FireflySci has developed ...
Breaking Biology Technology: