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A euprimate skull from the early Eocene of China


The debut of undoubted euprimates (primates of modern aspect1,2) was in the early Eocene, about 55 Myr ago. Since their first appearance, the earliest euprimates can be distinguished as Cantius, Donrussellia and Teilhardina2,3,4. Nonetheless, the earliest euprimates are primarily known from isolated teeth or fragmentary jaws. Here we describe a partially preserved euprimate skull with nearly complete upper and lower dentition, which represents a new species of Teilhardina and constitutes the first discovery of the genus in Asia. The new species is from the upper section of Lingcha Formation, Hunan Province, China, with an estimated age of 54.97 Myr ago5. Morphology and phylogeny analyses reveal that the new species is the most primitive species of Teilhardina, positioned near the root of euprimate radiation. This discovery of the earliest euprimate skull known to date casts new light on the debate6,7,8,9,10,11,12 concerning the adaptive origin of euprimates, and suggests that the last common ancestor of euprimates was probably a small, diurnal, visually oriented predator.

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Figure 1: The skull of Teilhardina asiatica sp. nov. (IVPP V12357).
Figure 2: The dentition of Teilhardina asiatica sp. nov. (IVPP V12357).
Figure 3: Strict consensus of 33 equally parsimonious trees with the optimization of activity patterns.
Figure 4: Bivariate plot of ln[orbital diameter] and ln[skull length] for extant and fossil primates.

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We thank S. Xie for fossil preparation. We are grateful to J. Meng for comments on drafts of this manuscript, R. Kay for providing his published data and for suggestions, and K. C. Beard of for discussions. This research is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Major Basic Research Project of Ministry of Sciences and Technology, China, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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Correspondence to Xijun Ni.

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Supplementary information


Supplementary Information 1: The specimen measurements, statistic analyses for activity pattern reconstruction, and cladistic analyses. (PDF 762 kb)

Supplementary Information 2: The matrix used for cladistic analyses. (TXT 64 kb)

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Ni, X., Wang, Y., Hu, Y. et al. A euprimate skull from the early Eocene of China. Nature 427, 65–68 (2004).

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