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5.2: Primate Evolution

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  • There is a direct correlation between primate evolution and primate taxonomy. Our goal in evolutionary systematics is to make a taxonomy of living organisms and trace their ancestors and provide the dates when the groups of species split apart from one another.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)


    Video on primate evolution:


    Linnaeus named this group of primates as the ones "before apes", and it happens to work well in an evolutionary framework, as they happen to be the most primitive. If you saw the first "Madagascar" movie, the primates there were all prosimians, and most of the world's prosimians are found on Madagascar. Madagascar is an island off the east coast of Africa. A variety of prosimian fossils are found all over Africa and Asia, but they were replaced by other primates most everywhere but Madagascar.

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    SKIM STREPSIRRHINES. Evolution of Lemurs


    Tarsiers used to be classified as prosimians, because they look and move like prosimians, but they turned out to be genetically more similar to monkeys and apes. So, scientists had to come up with a new division that was named after the differences in their noses.

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    Anthropoids are monkeys, and apes (which includes humans). Anthropoids are primates, but not prosimians. Fossil found in Thailand suggest anthropoids evolved in Asia first (~45mya), and then migrated to Africa (~38mya)


    Hominoids are apes. Hominoids are Anthropoids but not monkeys. The Miocene (23-5mya) was an important a time period for hominoid evolution and the adaptive radiation of apes led to extreme variation, and the ones in our clade were relatively generalized compared to Gigantopithecus for example.


    • Eocene
    • Miocene
    • sivapithecus
    • gigantopithecus
    • genetics
    • Strepsirrhines
    • anthropoids
    • hominoids
    • haplorhines