Seven tiny teeth tell the story of an ancient monkey that made a 100-mile ocean crossing between North and South America into modern-day Panama - the first fossil evidence for the existence of monkeys in North America.
The find provides the oldest fossil evidence for the interchange of mammals between South and North America and challenges long-held views of South America as an island continent that evolved in isolation before the Isthmus of Panama was formed and animals began crossing between the continents about 3.5 million years ago, said Jonathan Bloch, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. Study findings are detailed online today in the journal Nature.
Scientists uncovered the teeth belonging to the 21-million-year-old forest-dwelling primate during recent excavations related to the expansion of the Panama Canal. The new genus and species, dubbed Panamacebus transitus, received its name from the Latin word transit, meaning crossing.