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Odd mosaic of dental features reveals undocumented primate
Date:5/11/2010

ify primate fossils by their teeth because teeth are the most durable parts of the body and are most likely to fossilize, and so are most likely to be recovered.

"We were lucky to find even two teeth of Nosmips in each field season over the course of the nine years," said Seiffert. "That amounts to over nine months of continuous work. Only through working over such a long time span were we able to piece together the arrangement of Nosmips' teeth."

Analysis shows Nosmips had a rare combination of enlarged and elongated premolars with simple upper molars. It also had premolar teeth that had taken on the form of molars, instead of being relatively simple as in most other primates.

"Nosmips appears to be a highly specialized member of a previously undocumented and presumably quite ancient endemic African primate lineage" Seiffert said.

The researchers note that Nosmips lived alongside another specialized primate named Afradapis, which the same team described last year in a paper in the journal Nature. Seiffert and colleagues compared the teeth of these extinct species with those of living primates, and determined that Afradapis had adaptations for eating leaves, whereas Nosmips probably ate more fruits and insects.

"As time goes on and more discoveries are made, it will be fascinating to see how different lineages contributed to primate diversity in the Eocene of Africa," Seiffert said.

Researchers from the Duke Lemur Center, Midwestern University, Penn State University and University of Oxford also contributed to this research.


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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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