List of fossil primates

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This is a list of fossil primates—extinct primates for which a fossil record exists. Primates are generally thought to have evolved from a small, unspecialized mammal, which probably fed on insects and fruits. However, the precise source of the primates remains controversial and even their arboreal origin has recently been questioned.[1] As it has been suggested, many other mammal orders are arboreal too, but they have not developed the same characteristics as primates. Nowadays, some well known genera, such as Purgatorius and Plesiadapis, thought to be the most ancient primates for a long time, are not usually considered as such by recent authors, who tend to include them in the new order Plesiadapiformes, within superorder Euarchontoglires.[2] Some, to avoid confusions, employ the unranked term Euprimates, which excludes Plesiadapiformes.[3] That denomination is not used here.

There is an academic debate on the time the first primates appeared. One of the earliest probable primate fossils is the problematic Altiatlasius koulchii, perhaps an Omomyid, but perhaps a non-Primate Plesiadapiform, which lived in Morocco, during the Paleocene, around 60 Ma.[1] However, other studies, including molecular clock studies, have estimated the origin of the primate branch to have been in the mid-Cretaceous period, around 85 Ma, that is to say, in the time previous to the extinction of dinosaurs and the successful mammal radiation.[4][5][6] Nevertheless, there seems to be a consensus about the monophyletic origin of the order, although the evidence is not clear.[7] There are no fossils known that can be directly linked to the living African apes, nor any that could be considered representative of the last common ancestor between them and humans.[8]

The order Primates, established by Linnaeus in 1758, includes humans and their immediate ancestors. However, contrarily to the common opinion, most primates do not have especially large brains. Brain size is a derived character, which only appeared with genus Homo, and was lacking in the first hominid. In fact, hominid encephalization quotient is only 1.5 Ma more recent than that of some dolphin species. The encephalization quotient of some cetaceans is therefore higher than that of most primates, including the nearest relatives of humans, such as Australopithecus.[9]

This list follows Walter Carl Hartwig's 2002 book The Fossil Primate Record.[10] Parentheses around authors' names (and dates) indicates a change in generic name for the fossil, as stated in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).[11] Since the publication of the book as well as the creation of this article, new fossil taxon have been discovered that has helped improved the taxonomy among primates in general.


Infraorder Adapiformes[edit]

Adapiformes, incertae sedis[edit]

  • Lushius qinlinensis Chow, 1961
  • Panobius afridi Russell & Gingerich, 1987
  • Omanodon minor Gheerbrant et al., 1993
  • Shizarodon dhofarensis Gheerbrant et al., 1993
  • Muangthanhinius siami Marivaux et al., 2006.


Infraorder Lemuriformes[a][edit]

Basal stem group Lemuriformes[edit]

  • Algeripithecus minutus Godinot & Mahboubi, 1992
  • Azibius trerki Sudre, 1975
  • Djebelemur martinezi Hartenberger & Marandat, 1992
  • unnamed ('Anchomomys')
  • Plesiopithecus teras Simons, 1992


  • Karanisia clarki Seiffert et al., 2003
  • Nycticeboides simpsoni Jacobs, 1981
  • Wadilemur elegans Simons, 1997[17]


Subfossil lemurs:

  • Archaeolemur edwardsi Filhol, 1895
  • Archaeolemur majori Filhol, 1895
  • Hadropithecus stenognathus Lorenz von Liburnau, 1899
  • Mesopropithecus dolichobrachion Simons et al., 1995
  • Mesopropithecus globiceps Lamberton, 1936
  • Mesopropithecus pithecoides Standing, 1905
  • Babakotia radofilai Godfrey et al., 1990
  • Palaeopropithecus ingens G. Grandidier, 1899
  • Palaeopropithecus kelyus Gommery et al., 2010
  • Palaeopropithecus maximus Standing, 1903
  • Archaeoindris fontoynontii Standing, 1909
  • Subgenus: Megaladapis
  • Megaladapis (Megaladapis) grandidieri Standing, 1903
  • Megaladapis (Megaladapis) madagascariensis Forsyth-Major, 1894
  • Subgenus: Peloriadapis
  • Megaladapis (Peloriadapis) edwardsi Grandidier, 1899
  • Pachylemur insignis Filhol, 1895
  • Pachylemur jullyi Lamberton, 1948



Tarsiiformes, incertae sedis[edit]







Simiiformes, incertae sedis[edit]

  • Krabia Chaimanee et al., 2013



Catarrhini, incertae sedis[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Although the monophyletic relationship between lemurs and lorisoids is widely accepted, their clade name is not. The term "lemuriform" is used here because it derives from one popular taxonomy that clumps the clade of toothcombed primates into one infraorder and the extinct, non-toothcombed adapiforms into another, both within the suborder Strepsirrhini.[13][14] However, another popular alternative taxonomy places the lorisoids in their own infraorder, Lorisiformes.[15]


  1. ^ a b Rasmussen, D. T. (2002). "The origin of Primates". In Hartwig, W. C. The Primate Fossil Record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 5–9. 
  2. ^ Covert, H. H. (2002). "The earliest fossil Primates and the evolution of Prosimians: Introduction". In Hartwig, W. C. The Primate Fossil Record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–20. 
  3. ^ McKenna, M. C. & Bell, S. K. (1997). Classification of Mammals Above the Species Level. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 329. ISBN 0-231-11012-X. 
  4. ^ Lee, M. (September 1999). "Molecular Clock Calibrations and Metazoan Divergence Dates". Journal of Molecular Evolution 49 (3): 385–391. doi:10.1007/PL00006562. PMID 10473780. 
  5. ^ Field Museum. "Scientists Push Back Primate Origins From 65 Million To 85 Million Years Ago". Science Daily. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  6. ^ Tavaré, S., Marshall, C. R., Will, O., Soligo, C. & Martin R.D. (April 18, 2002). "Using the fossil record to estimate the age of the last common ancestor of extant primates". Nature 416 (6882): 726–729. Bibcode:2002Natur.416..726T. doi:10.1038/416726a. PMID 11961552. 
  7. ^ Dawkins, R. (2005). The Ancestor’s Tale. A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution. Boston, New York: Mariner Books. pp. 160–168. 
  8. ^ Willoughby, P. Palaeoanthropology and the place of humans in nature. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 2005, 18, 60-91. Pamela Willougby at the time of authorship is Prof of Anthropology at the University of Alberta
  9. ^ Conway Morris, S. (2003). Life’s Solution. Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. pp. 245–247. 
  10. ^ Hartwig, C. (2002). The Fossil Primate Record. Cambridge University Press. 
  11. ^ ICZN (1999). "Article 51. Citation of names of authors". International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  12. ^ a b Franzen, Jens L. et al. (2009). Hawks, John, ed. "Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology". PLoS ONE 4 (5): e5723. Bibcode:2009PLoSO...4.5723F. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005723. PMC 2683573. PMID 19492084. 
  13. ^ Szalay & Delson 1980, p. 149.
  14. ^ Cartmill 2010, p. 15.
  15. ^ Hartwig 2011, pp. 20–21.
  16. ^ Tabuce, R.; Marivaux, L.; Lebrun, R.; Adaci, M.; Bensalah, M.; Fabre, P. -H.; Fara, E.; Gomes Rodrigues, H.; Hautier, L.; Jaeger, J. -J.; Lazzari, V.; Mebrouk, F.; Peigne, S.; Sudre, J.; Tafforeau, P.; Valentin, X.; Mahboubi, M. (2009). "Anthropoid versus strepsirhine status of the African Eocene primates Algeripithecus and Azibius: Craniodental evidence" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276 (1676): 4087–4094. doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.1339. Lay summaryScience Daily (15 September 2009).  edit
  17. ^ a b Godinot, M. (2010). "Chapter 19: Paleogene Prosimians". In Werdelin, L.; Sanders, W.J. Cenozoic Mammals of Africa. University of California Press. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-520-25721-4. 
  18. ^ Godinot, M. (2006). "Lemuriform origins as viewed from the fossil record". Folia Primatologica 77 (6): 446–464. doi:10.1159/000095391. PMID 17053330.  edit
  19. ^ Godinot, M. (2010). "Chapter 19: Paleogene Prosimians". In Werdelin, L.; Sanders, W.J. Cenozoic Mammals of Africa. University of California Press. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-520-25721-4. 
  20. ^ Mittermeier, R., Ganzhorn, J., Konstant, W., Glander, K., Tattersall, I., Groves, C., Rylands, A., Hapke, A., Ratsimbazafy, J., Mayor, M., Louis, E., Rumpler, Y., Schwitzer, C. & Rasoloarison, R. (December 2008). "Lemur Diversity in Madagascar". International Journal of Primatology 29 (6): 1607–1656. doi:10.1007/s10764-008-9317-y. 
  21. ^ Ni, X.; Gebo, D. L.; Dagosto, M.; Meng, J.; Tafforeau, P.; Flynn, J. J.; Beard, K. C. (2013). "The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution". Nature 498 (7452): 60–64. doi:10.1038/nature12200. PMID 23739424.  edit

Literature cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]

The following is a list of books that provide useful reviews or overviews of primate fossil histories, including (e.g.) diagrams, photos and good referencing.

  • Weiss, M.L., & Mann, A.E (1985). "'Human Biology and Behaviour: An anthropological perspective" (4th ed.). Boston: Little Brown. ISBN 0-673-39013-6.  (Note: this book treats humans as primates, and contains very accessible descriptions of primates, their evolution, and fossil history).
  • Jones, Steve; Martin, Robert D.; Pilbeam, David R (Editors). (1994). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human evolution. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-46786-1.  (Note: this book contains very useful, information dense chapters on primate evolution, including fossil history).

External links[edit]