Rethinking primate origins again

Am J Primatol. 2013 Feb;75(2):95-106. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22096. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


In 1974, Cartmill introduced the theory that the earliest primate adaptations were related to their being visually oriented predators active on slender branches. Given more recent data on primate-like marsupials, nocturnal prosimians, and early fossil primates, and the context in which these primates first appeared, this theory has been modified. We hypothesize that our earliest primate relatives were likely exploiting the products of co-evolving angiosperms, along with insects attracted to fruits and flowers, in the slender supports of the terminal branch milieu. This has been referred to as the primate/angiosperm co-evolution theory. Cartmill subsequently posited that: "If the first euprimates had grasping feet and blunt teeth adapted for eating fruit, but retained small divergent orbits…" then the angiosperm coevolution theory would have support. The recent discovery of Carpolestes simpsoni provides this support. In addition, new field data on small primate diets, and a new theory concerning the visual adaptations of primates, have provided further evidence supporting the angiosperm coevolution theory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food Chain*
  • Fossils
  • Magnoliopsida / anatomy & histology
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics
  • Magnoliopsida / physiology*
  • Primates / anatomy & histology
  • Primates / genetics
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology