Newly discovered oldest primate fossil suggests our first ancestor saw dinosaurs

By the time humans arrived on the scene, the dinosaurs had disappeared from the face of the Earth. However, recent findings suggest that the seed of the creation of humans (and other primates) was already growing when mighty dinosaurs were still walking the planet. Fossils of the oldest known primate life form have been analyzed to find that they lived for about 65.9 million years. For reference, dinosaurs disappeared 66 million years ago. The fossils belong to the genus Purgatory that most biologists recognize as belonging to the group plesiadapiformes– oldest known primate.

These small mammals were quite different from any of the successors we recognize today. In delving into the significance of this discovery, the earliest appearance of archaic primates, author Stephen Chester said: “It adds to our understanding of how the first primates separated from their competitors after the demise of the dinosaurs.”

Based on tooth-fossil analysis, the team estimates that these animals (which are the ancestor of all known primates, including monkeys, lemurs, and even humans) likely evolved in the late 1800s. Cretaceous– which means they lived alongside large dinosaurs. This discovery has been called an important step in increasing “our understanding of the environmental, biological and social dependencies that ultimately led to the evolution of primates,” according to Peter Tolias, dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences.

Recently, another article established that the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs was definitely the impact of an asteroid 66 million years ago. This implies that everything that wiped out the mighty dinosaurs was survived by our ancestor and led to the eventual recovery of life on the planet.

Chester has been involved in many groundbreaking primate discoveries. He co-authored a paper in 2015 that studied the ankle bones of Purgatory and established that these arboreal primate ancestors survived the asteroid impact long after the dinosaurs disappeared.

Before this new discovery, the oldest known primate fossil was 55 million years old. It belonged to a lemur-like mammal and was discovered in China in 2013. The animal was called Archicebus achilles. (Long after all the dinosaurs disappeared). This study has been published in the Royal Society Open Science.


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