The Eocene Origin of Anthropoid Primates

Adaptation, Evolution, and Diversity
  • Elwyn L. Simons
  • D. Tab Rasmussen
  • Thomas M. Bown
  • Prithijit S. Chatrath
Part of the Advances in Primatology book series (AIPR)


One of the few previous attempts to model anthropoid origins emphasized apparent global climatic changes at the Eocene—Oligocene boundary (now placed at 34 MA) that may have served as the driving force for changes in primate geographic distribution southward and for the evolutionary origin of key new dietary and foraging adaptations (Cachel, 1979, 1981). The most recent proponent of the idea that anthropoid origin was a geologically sudden event associated with profound environmental change at the Eocene—Oligocene transition has been Gingerich (1993). In recent years, however, the view of the Eocene—Oligocene boundary as an important threshold for anthropoid origins has been supplanted by new interpretations based on research in geology and dating (Bown and Kraus, 1988; Van Couvering and Harris, 1991; Kap-pelman et al., 1992; Rasmussen et al, 1992; Gingerich, 1993), Afro-Arabian paleontology (de Bonis et al., 1988; Thomas et al., 1988, 1989, 1991; Simons, 1989, 1990, 1992; Godinot, Ghapter 10, this volume; Godinot and Mahboubi, 1992; Hartenberger and Marandat, 1992), and functional anatomy (Rasmussen and Simons, 1992). Evidence now demonstrates that the anthropoid clade underwent a significant radiation in the late Eocene of Africa, where prosimi-ans were apparently scarce, and that these early anthropoids did not differ appreciably from their prosimian contemporaries on other continents in basic dietary and sensory adaptations or in size.


Middle Eocene Late Eocene Occlusal View Anthropoid Primate Catarrhine Primate 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elwyn L. Simons
    • 1
  • D. Tab Rasmussen
    • 2
  • Thomas M. Bown
    • 3
  • Prithijit S. Chatrath
    • 4
  1. 1.Duke Primate CenterDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Paleontology and Stratigraphy BranchU.S. Geological SurveyDenverUSA
  4. 4.Duke University Primate CenterDurhamUSA

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