Despite our centuries of attempting to understand the complicated process known as evolution, we’re still not anywhere near done unraveling the mysteries it holds. There are multiple reasons for that, primarily a physical lack of data and samples and up until recently the lack of a way to analyze the collected data.
With the advent of modern technology, it’s now far easier to analyze fossils, carbon date them, and find out a pretty specific time frame during which the fossils were alive and well. Add to that a few new findings which can certainly help in providing with new information, and we might finally be on the right track.
According to a new research study from the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas, six Chinese fossils might solve primate evolution. This would prove unspeakably valuable, as it would provide us with answers as to how humans managed to evolve the way they did, solving a centuries-old mystery.
The fossils found were in the form of a few jaw and tooth fragments, and they belonged to six different previously unknown species of primates which lived around 34 million years ago, after the planet transitioned from the Eocene to the Oligocene epoch.
After the transition happened, many species of primates started either dying off or migrating, seeing as they generally like things warm and wet, and the whole climate was going cold. So most of them went extinct in America and Europe, but remained very much alive in Africa and in Southern Asia.
But soon, Asian primates started disappearing as well, so a few species started migrating towards Africa. Most of the species that did not make it to Africa went extinct (the anthropoid primates), while the species that started migrating found themselves in a new, more hospitable land, in Africa. Some Asian primates actually managed to migrate a bit inside the continent before they went extinct.
The species that did make it to Africa started to quickly proliferate, leading to new and varied species and families. But the same thing happened in Asia before the creatures finally went extinct. According to the study, had the weather not started a cooling process, the Asian primates would have also seen as much evolution and diversification as the species in Africa.
But it did turn cold, and the species went extinct, and it’s to six of those extinct species that the fossils belonged to. Of course, the team will keep analyzing the species in the hopes of finding the missing link in human evolution, but it seems like they’re on the right track. They even found a species of primate that has an uncanny resemblance to today’s tarsier.
Image source: Wikimedia