New postcranial elements for the earliest Eocene fossil primate Teilhardina belgica

Daniel L Gebo, Thierry Smith, Marian Dagosto
Journal of Human Evolution 2012, 63 (1): 205-18
Teilhardina belgica is one of the most primitive fossil primates known to date and the earliest haplorhine with associated postcranials, making it relevant to a reconstruction of the ancestral primate morphotype. Here we describe newly discovered postcranial elements of T. belgica. It is a small primate with an estimated body mass between 30 and 60 g, similar to the size of a mouse lemur. Its hindlimb anatomy suggests frequent and forceful leaping with excellent foot mobility and grasping capabilities. It can now be established that this taxon exhibits critical primate postcranial synapomorphies such as a grasping hallux, a tall knee, and nailed digits. This anatomical pattern and behavioral profile is similar to what has been inferred before for other omomyids and adapiforms. The most unusual feature of T. belgica is its elongated middle phalanges (most likely manual phalanges), suggesting that this early primate had very long fingers similar to those of living tarsiers.

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