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Fossil evidence for an ancient divergence of lorises and galagos


Morphological, molecular, and biogeographic data bearing on early primate evolution suggest that the clade containing extant (or ‘crown’) strepsirrhine primates (lemurs, lorises and galagos) arose in Afro-Arabia during the early Palaeogene1, but over a century of palaeontological exploration on that landmass has failed to uncover any conclusive support for that hypothesis2. Here we describe the first demonstrable crown strepsirrhines from the Afro-Arabian Palaeogene—a galagid and a possible lorisid from the late middle Eocene of Egypt, the latter of which provides the earliest fossil evidence for the distinctive strepsirrhine toothcomb. These discoveries approximately double the previous temporal range of undoubted lorisiforms and lend the first strong palaeontological support to the hypothesis of an ancient Afro-Arabian origin for crown Strepsirrhini and an Eocene divergence of extant lorisiform families1,3.

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Figure 1: Middle Eocene lorisiforms from northern Egypt.
Figure 2
Figure 3: Strict consensus of 16 equally parsimonious trees recovered in PAUP 4.0 b10 (ref. 30).


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We thank K. Soliman, A. Swedan, A. Hassen, F. Imbabi, and the numerous other scientists from the Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority and the Egyptian Geological Museum who have supported and facilitated our collaborative palaeontological work in northern Egypt. P. Chatrath managed field operations in Egypt. T. M. Bown discovered BQ-2, and together with M. Mathison measured the geological section reported herein. T. M. Bown, P. Chatrath and M. Mathison also helped with collecting during the 2001 season along with A. Abd el-Ghafar, M. Abd el-Ghany, Y. Abd el-Razik, H. Ali, J. Fleagle, G. Kamel, A. Hassen, M. Hassen Taha, C. Heesy, L. Jolly, P. Lewis, G. Mohamed, S. Mohamed, R. Patnaik and M. Zakaria. We thank F. Ankel-Simons, R. Martin, J. Rossie, T. Ryan, C. Simons and A. Yoder for discussion and/or comments on the manuscript. Recent work in Egypt has been generously supported by a National Science Foundation grant to E.L.S. and Leakey Foundation grants to E.R.S.

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Correspondence to Erik R. Seiffert.

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Seiffert, E., Simons, E. & Attia, Y. Fossil evidence for an ancient divergence of lorises and galagos. Nature 422, 421–424 (2003).

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