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Fossil find may be monkey, human ancestor

May 18, 2009 at 11:35 AM   |   Comments

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ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 18 (UPI) -- A University of Michigan professor says the discovery of a 47 million-year-old fossil may be from a primate species related to humans, apes and monkeys.

Michigan paleontology Professor Philip Gingeric, who also serves as the president-elect of the Paleontological Society of the United States, said the newly discovered fossil also supports the adapid theory of evolution, The Wall Street Journal said Monday.

A major ongoing evolutionary debate is focused on whether humans descended from an ape-like group called the tarsidae, the known descendants of the modern Asian primate tarsier, or the adapidae, whose modern descendant is Madagascar's lemur.

Gingeric said the new fossil offers evidence for the latter and traditionally less accepted theory.

"This discovery brings a forgotten group into focus as a possible ancestor of higher primates," Gingeric said of the archeological find.

Gingeric said the fossil, which will go on display next Tuesday at New York City's American Museum of Natural History, is of a young female adapid.

The Journal said the fossilized skeleton of the ancient primate was found near Frankfurt, Germany, in the Messel Shale Pit.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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