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Ankle fossil suggests our ancient ancestors leapt like acrobats

Ankle fossil suggests our ancient ancestors leapt like acrobats

New Scientist

Image: Shinagawa

The first primate may have been a leaper, not a clamberer. For years, many biologists have argued that the common ancestor of all primates was a small animal that scampered along thin tree branches. Now a fossil discovered in France suggests the first primate might actually have been a bizarre monkey-like animal capable of acrobatic leaping. That makes it harder to work out what drove primate evolution.

Primates first appear in the fossil record about 57 million years ago. They quickly divided into two groups – the “wet-nosed” primates that now include lemurs and the “dry-nosed” primates represented by tarsiers, monkeys, apes and humans.

Primates on both sides of the divide have features in common, including grasping hands and feet, and nails rather than claws. This implies that these features evolved in the primate common ancestor. Read more on newscientist.com…