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Paleontologists discover 55 million year old monkey fossil
( 2004-01-01 01:20) (Xinhua)

Chinese archaeologists have discovered a 55 million-year-old fossil that they believe provides important information about the evolution of monkeys and humans.

The four scientists working at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences published their findings in the internationally renowned magazine "Nature".

Professor Li Chuankui said the fossil, which was discovered in China's Hunan Province, was a breakthrough focusing on the origin and evolution of euprimates animals, which include monkeys, apes and human beings.

Such fossils have been found before in Europe and north America, but never in China.

The partially preserved euprimate skull with nearly complete upper and lower jaws and teeth constitutes the first discovery of the genus in Asia. The new species is estimated to date back 54.97 million years.

The discovery casts new light on the debate concerning the adaptive origin of euprimates, and suggests that the last common ancestor of euprimates was probably a small diurnal, visually oriented predator.

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