Tiny Monkey Fossil Spurs Scientific Flap

Did oldest primate in North America arrive from east or west?
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2008 1:10 PM CST
Teilhardina magnoliana, the tiny primate making big news.   (Illustration: Mark A. Klingler/CMNH)
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(Newser) – A diminutive fossil recently found in Mississippi is the oldest primate discovered in North America, and its exact age is raising questions about the timing of prehistoric animal migrations, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The existence of the tiny, tarsier-like creature, which could fit in the palm of a human hand, suggests that the primates migrated to North America across the Bering land bridge.

The paleontologist who discovered Teilhardina magnoliana says the rock layers where the little guy was found indicate that he lived 55 million years ago—making him older than similar fossils unearthed in Europe. That contradicts findings by other scientists that the primates spread from China to Europe to America. Either way, the fossil offers information about the local climate: warm and muggy.