Insight into how monkeys left Africa

Filed under: Environment,Headlines |

14The monkey roadmap out of Africa has a new timetable and route, thanks to a tiny tooth plucked from the Arabian Desert.

Yale anthropologist Andrew Hill and a group of international colleagues found the fossil, a monkey molar 6.5 to 8 million years old, in the sand on Abu Dhabi’s Shuwaihat Island, in the United Arab Emirates. They determined it belonged to the earliest known guenon, a group of monkeys previously known only on the African continent.
“There are only two fossil monkeys in the whole of Arabia and we have found both of them,” Hill said. “This is very important geographically, being at the junction of the great Old World biogeographical zones.”
Scientists from Yale, Hunter College-CUNY, the Museum fur Naturkunde-Berlin and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority announced the monkey tooth find in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The discovery suggests that Old World monkeys travelled from Africa to Eurasia a million years earlier than previously thought. Prior theories speculated that some monkeys made their way from Africa to Eurasia via the Straits of Gibraltar or the Mediterranean Basin six million years ago. That would have been during the Messinian Crisis, when the Mediterranean Sea dried up.
“Now we know that, in fact, the route through Arabia was available a million years before the Messinian Crisis,” said Chris Gilbert, a former Yale postdoc who is an assistant professor at Hunter College. He was the lead author on the study.
Gilbert described the fossil molar as tiny. “First we needed to determine whether this was an adult or a baby tooth,” he said. “Once we determined it was an adult, we figured it was a guenon. That was totally unexpected.”

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Posted by on July 3, 2014. Filed under Environment, Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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