PRIMATE EVOLUTION: Oligocene primates from China reveal divergence between African and Asian primate evolution

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Abstract

Profound environmental and faunal changes are associated with climatic deterioration during the Eocene-Oligocene transition (EOT) roughly 34 million years ago. Reconstructing how Asian primates responded to the EOT has been hindered by a sparse record of Oligocene primates on that continent. Here, we report the discovery of a diverse primate fauna from the early Oligocene of southern China. In marked contrast to Afro-Arabian Oligocene primate faunas, this Asian fauna is dominated by strepsirhines. There appears to be a strong break between Paleogene and Neogene Asian anthropoid assemblages. Asian and Afro-Arabian primate faunas responded differently to EOT climatic deterioration, indicating that the EOT functioned as a critical evolutionary filter constraining the subsequent course of primate evolution across the Old World.

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