Department of Anthropology
Brooklyn College, CUNY
PURGATORIUS, PRIMITIVE PLESIADAPIFORMS, AND PRIMATE ORIGINS
Physical anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have long been interested in primate origins, the first clear step in the divergence of primates, including humans, from all other mammals. Evolutionary relationships among fossil plesiadapiforms (putative early primates) and other closely related mammals (primates, treeshrews, and colugos) have been debated for decades. Several recent analyses suggest that plesiadapiforms are most closely related to primates of modern aspect, and are therefore critical for testing hypotheses regarding the origin and earliest evolutionary history of primates. This talk will focus on aspects of the first 10 million years of primate evolution following the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. This includes new and virtually undescribed fossil specimens such as the first ankle bones of the oldest known plesiadapiform, Purgatorius, the oldest known partial skeleton of a plesiadapiform, and several additional partial skeletons of primitive plesiadapiforms. These and other new data provide better resolution to questions about evolutionary relationships, taxonomy, and paleobiology of our earliest primate ancestors.