Additional postcranial elements of Teilhardina belgica: the oldest European primate

Daniel L Gebo, Richard Smith, Marian Dagosto, Thierry Smith
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2015, 156 (3): 388-406
Teilhardina belgica is one of the earliest fossil primates ever recovered and the oldest fossil primate from Europe. As such, this taxon has often been hypothesized as a basal tarsiiform on the basis of its primitive dental formula with four premolars and a simplified molar cusp pattern. Until recently [see Rose et al.: Am J Phys Anthropol 146 (2011) 281-305; Gebo et al.: J Hum Evol 63 (2012) 205-218], little was known concerning its postcranial anatomy with the exception of its well-known tarsals. In this article, we describe additional postcranial elements for T. belgica and compare these with other tarsiiforms and with primitive adapiforms. The forelimb of T. belgica indicates an arboreal primate with prominent forearm musculature, good elbow rotational mobility, and a horizontal, rather than a vertical body posture. The lateral hand positions imply grasps adaptive for relatively large diameter supports given its small body size. The hand is long with very long fingers, especially the middle phalanges. The hindlimb indicates foot inversion capabilities, frequent leaping, arboreal quadrupedalism, climbing, and grasping. The long and well-muscled hallux can be coupled with long lateral phalanges to reconstruct a foot with long grasping digits. Our phyletic analysis indicates that we can identify several postcranial characteristics shared in common for stem primates as well as note several derived postcranial characters for Tarsiiformes.

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