Gradual phyletic evolution at the generic level in early Eocene omomyid primates

Abstract

Analysis of dental morphology in over 600 stratigraphically controlled specimens of tarsier-like primates from early Eocene strata in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, provides important new data for understanding the tempo and mode of evolution in primates. Here we describe two evolutionary transitions at the generic level in separate lineages of the family Omomyidae. In both lines transformation occurred not only continuously (rather than by abrupt appearance of new morphologies followed by stasis), but also in mosaic fashion, with greater variation in certain characters preceding a shift to another character state. In one lineage this resulted in a significant change in dental adaptation. These data support a gradual model of dental evolution and are inconsistent with the punctuated equilibria model. Together with other reported cases, the data suggest that gradualism is much more prevalent than proponents of punctuated equilibria have argued.

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Rose, K., Bown, T. Gradual phyletic evolution at the generic level in early Eocene omomyid primates. Nature 309, 250–252 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1038/309250a0

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