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Oldest fossil proves Asia origin of human lineage

(Shanghai Daily)

08:09, June 06, 2013

Chinese scientists said studies on the oldest and most complete fossil skeleton of a primate yet found - unearthed a decade ago in China - confirms the idea that primates, a lineage that ultimately led to humans, originated in Asia, not Africa.

Scientists said examination of the skeleton pushes the emergence of primates, which include lemurs, apes and humans, to at least 55 million years ago - 10 million years earlier than believed.

Scientists have been working to confirm the information ever since the creature was found by Ni Xijun from Chinese Academy of Sciences and his colleagues in Jinzhou City, Hubei Province.

"Discovery of this skeleton confirms the theory that primates originated from Asia," Ni said. The discovery was published by world-leading journal Nature today.

"It is the oldest fossil primate of this quality ever recovered," Ni said. The fossil at first appeared to be the earliest and most primitive known relatives of tarsiers, a group of primates characterized by large eyes, long feet and tails.

But scientists found the fossil has a mixture of features, including some that resemble anthropoids, primates that include monkeys, apes and human beings.

"These findings show that the split between the tarsiiformes and anthropoids, from which humans descended, was earlier than previously thought," he said.

Ni said the team named the primate Archicebus achilles, which roughly translates as "ancient monkey."

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