New research confirms the critical role that dietary adaptations played in the survival and diversification of North American euprimates.
The earliest true primates, called “euprimates,” lived about 55 million years ago across what is now North America. Two major fossil euprimate groups existed at this time: the lemur-like adapids and the tarsier-like omomyids. Dietary competition with other similarly adapted mammals was presumably equally critical in the origin and diversification of these two groups. Though it’s been hinted at, the exact role of dietary competition and overlapping food resources in early adapid and omomyid evolution has never been directly tested.
I did not know this. @T.j_Runyon, can you tell us about euprimates? How did they get back over to Africa?
The researchers utilized the latest in digital imaging and microCT scanning on more than 350 fossil mammal teeth from geological deposits in North America. They sought to quantify the 3D surface anatomy of molars belonging to extinct representatives of rodents, marsupials, and insectivores – all of which were found within the same geological deposits as the euprimates and were thus likely real competitors.
It is amazing the stories a tooth can tell.