New Paleocene skeletons and the relationship of plesiadapiforms to crown-clade primates

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 23;104(4):1159-64. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0610579104. Epub 2007 Jan 17.


Plesiadapiforms are central to studies of the origin and evolution of primates and other euarchontan mammals (tree shrews and flying lemurs). We report results from a comprehensive cladistic analysis using cranial, postcranial, and dental evidence including data from recently discovered Paleocene plesiadapiform skeletons (Ignacius clarkforkensis sp. nov.; Dryomomys szalayi, gen. et sp. nov.), and the most plesiomorphic extant tree shrew, Ptilocercus lowii. Our results, based on the fossil record, unambiguously place plesiadapiforms with Euprimates and indicate that the divergence of Primates (sensu lato) from other euarchontans likely occurred before or just after the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary (65 Mya), notably later than logistical model and molecular estimates. Anatomical features associated with specialized pedal grasping (including a nail on the hallux) and a petrosal bulla likely evolved in the common ancestor of Plesiadapoidea and Euprimates (Euprimateformes) by 62 Mya in either Asia or North America. Our results are consistent with those from recent molecular analyses that group Dermoptera with Scandentia. We find no evidence to support the hypothesis that any plesiadapiforms were mitten-gliders or closely related to Dermoptera.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fossils*
  • Paleontology
  • Phylogeny*
  • Primates / classification
  • Primates / genetics*