Bone found in underwater cave holds clues to monkey's past

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Bone found in underwater cave holds clues to monkey's past

September 07, 2015 - 02:25
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Fossilised bone found in underwater cave in Dominican Republic found to be over a million years old.

Antillothrix bernensis tibia and cranium.

Identified to be from the extinct Antillothrix bernensis monkey, the shin bone had been embedded in a limestone rock in the Padre Nuestro Cave in Altagracia Province, Dominician Republic. The animal was the size of a small cat and lived mainly on fruit and leaves.

"Previously discovered primate material has all been dated to within the last 10,000 years. This new material is morphologically consistent with the previously collected material, but is dated to 1.3 million years ago," said Melissa Tallman, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Grand Valley State University.

Identification of the species was confirmed using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics, by an international research team led by Dr Helen Green of Melbourne University's School of Earth Sciences.

"The presence of endemic new world monkeys on the Caribbean islands is one of the great questions of bio-geography. [...] By establishing the age of these fossils, we have changed the understanding of primate evolution in this region," said Green.

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