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An Early Miocene anthropoid skull from the Chilean Andes


PARTLY because of their poor fossil record, the relationships of neotropical platyrrhine monkeys to other groups of primates and to each other remain perhaps the most poorly known for any major primate clade1. Here we report the discovery of a complete platyrrhine skull from the Andes of central Chile, by far the best preserved Tertiary primate cranium from South America. This find, coupled with recent phylogenetic analyses of higher groups of anthropoid primates2–4, has the potential to revise substantially our understanding of platyrrhine interrelationships, indicating, among other points, significant modification to reconstruction of the ancestral platyrrhine morphotype and a likely African origin for New World monkeys. A 40Ar/39Ar radioisotopic date directly associated with the skull indicates an Early Miocene age5, marking the first report of South American mammals of this age from outside Argentine Patagonia. Finally, this discovery demonstrates the enormous potential of vastly distributed, but virtually untapped, Andean volcaniclastic deposits to yield further insights into the origin and diversification of South American primates.

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Flynn, J., Wyss, A., Charrier, R. et al. An Early Miocene anthropoid skull from the Chilean Andes. Nature 373, 603–607 (1995).

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