Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Another Intermediate Gap-Filling Fossil!

3-D images of Archicebus achilles.

Image credit: ESRF/P. Tafforeau. Source: ESRF News.
The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution : Nature : Nature Research

I'm thinking of starting another blog called Filling The Gaps. There are just too many examples of these 'missing' fossils to include in this one without it coming to resemble a blog devoted to nothing else.

These examples of things creationists insist are missing being found and described by science are almost a daily occurrence from the field of biology alone. If science was bothered about creationism and scientists felt they still needed to prove evolution and disprove creationism there would probably be several scientific journals called something like the Journal of Creation Falsification or Journal of Evolution, but of course it isn't needed because science has no such need.

There is a reason creationism is absolutely obsessed with falsifying and misrepresenting science and presenting science as some sort of vast conspiracy theory or based on false assumptions and therefore invalid - unless it can be made to appears to support creationism, then it's conclusive and irrefutable, of course.

Almost all scientific papers in the fields of cosmology, archaeology, anthropology, palaeontology, geology and biology quite incidentally and without any intent on the part of the authors or publishers, refute creationism absolutely.

This 2013 paper is no exception.

An international team of scientists led by Dr. Xijun Ni of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied the skeleton of Archicebus, a 55 million years old fossil from the early Eocene Epoch which was excavated in two separate parts from sedimentary rock strata deposited in an ancient lake. They found it was radically different to other known living or extinct primates. It had the feet of a small monkey, the arms, legs and teeth of a very primitive primate, and a primitive skull with unusually small eyes for a primate. In other words, it had intermediate characteristics just as you would expect of a basal species close to the branching point between the tarsiers and the anthropoids (monkeys and apes).

The examination was carried out by virtual reconstruction of a 3-D image using high-resolution x-rays at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France.

Reconstructing the earliest phases of primate evolution has been impeded by gaps in the fossil record, so that disagreements persist regarding the palaeobiology and phylogenetic relationships of the earliest primates. Here we report the discovery of a nearly complete and partly articulated skeleton of a primitive haplorhine primate from the early Eocene of China, about 55 million years ago, the oldest fossil primate of this quality ever recovered. Coupled with detailed morphological examination using propagation phase contrast X-ray synchrotron microtomography, our phylogenetic analysis based on total available evidence indicates that this fossil is the most basal known member of the tarsiiform clade. In addition to providing further support for an early dichotomy between the strepsirrhine and haplorhine clades, this new primate further constrains the age of divergence between tarsiiforms and anthropoids. It also strengthens the hypothesis that the earliest primates were probably diurnal, arboreal and primarily insectivorous mammals the size of modern pygmy mouse lemurs.

Xijun Ni, Daniel L. Gebo, Marian Dagosto, Jin Meng, Paul Tafforeau, John J. Flynn & K. Christopher Beard
The oldest known primate skeleton and early haplorhine evolution
Nature 498
, 60–64 doi:10.1038/nature12200

Copyright © 2013, Rights Managed by Nature Publishing Group
Reprinted by kind permission under licence #4164420025308

This or something very close to it was the probable ancestor of the old and new world monkeys, the apes and of course archaic and modern hominids. It was also probably diurnal, arboreal and insectivorous and not very far removed from the earliest mammals.

And of course it's yet another fossil exactly as predicted by the Theory of Evolution from precisely the time it would be expected to be from. At seven million years old this specimen extends the earliest know record of a primate; the previous being Darwinius from Messel in Germany and Notharctus from Wyoming, USA. Unlike these later fossils, which were more like lemurs from early in their branch of the primate tree, Archicebus is closer to the branch that gave rise to monkeys and apes and so is close to being our common ancestor if not actually our common ancestor.

I wonder what creationists who claim there is no evidence that humans evolved from monkeys will make of this evidence that our even earlier ancestors evolved into monkeys first.

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