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Fossils of Unknown Extinct Primate Species Found in China

May 09, 2016 06:37 AM EDT

A team of international scientists have uncovered a spectacular cache of fossils from unknown extinct primate species in China, helping researchers better understand the course of primate, and our very own evolution.

The unearthed fossils most likely belong to six new species of primates. Four of them are lemur-like members of the strepsrrhine lineage, while the other two belongs to an ancestor of tarsier and anthropoids, human-like monkeys.

The discovery, published in the journal Science, suggest that climate change during Oligocene epoch played a crucial role in the diversification of primates in Asia and Africa. The changing weather during that time may cause primates in Asia to evolve differently from primates in Africa, and may also be at fault for the extinction of some primate species.

According to the report from Washington Post, many scientists believe that ancient primates were able to cross the waters dividing Asia and Africa by drifting in rafts made of matted dirt and vegetation, or fallen trees.

While primates continue to strive and populate Africa which lead to the evolution of ancient humans, primates that ware left in Asia experience a significant decrease due to the cold and dry climate, making tropical forest to recede, while open plains and deciduous trees sprouted throughout the continent.

Because most of the fossils dug-up in China presented more lemur-like structures than primate, apes and humans, researchers believe that during the Oligocene, anthropoids may have been at the verge of extinction in Asia.

Christian Science Monitor described the diversification of primate species in Asia and Africa as "two separate experiments in primate evolution". In which, primates from these two regions were isolated from each other in environments that are greatly different from one another.

"Evolution is incredibly complicated," said K. Christopher Beard, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas to CS Monitor.

"This is a really good example of how evolution on two different continents at exactly the same time yielded almost exactly opposite results." added Beard.

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