Newly discovered fossilized bones of the world’s oldest and most primitive primate – Purgatorius – reveal a tiny and agile animal that spent much of its time eating fruit and climbing trees, researchers say.
The fossils are the first known below-the-head bones for Purgatorius and previously only teeth revealed its existence.
“The ankle bones show that it had a mobile ankle joint like primates today that live in trees,” Discovery News quoted co-author Stephen Chester, a Yale University vertebrate palaeontologist, as saying.
“This mobility would have allowed for rotating the foot in different directions as it adjusted to different angles presented by tree trunks and branches.
“It also shows that the first primates did not have elongate ankles that you see in many living primates today that are thought to be related to leaping behaviours,” Chester said.
He conducted the study with colleagues Jonathan Bloch of the Florida Museum of Natural History and William Clemens, a professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley and a curator for the university’s Museum of Paleontology.
After analyzing the fossils, the researchers believe that the specialized ankle bones of Purgatorius played a key role in the evolutionary success of early primates.
“These new fossils support the idea that the first 10 million years of primate evolution happened in the context of an intense period of similar diversification in flowering plants, including the ability to climb in branches and collect fruits and other products of the trees at the very beginning,” Bloch said.
Baxter got it wrong. Purga wasn't a burrower.
Are there publicly available pix of the fossil?