Back in 2003 the oldest primate ever found was found in China and it dates back to 55 million years. The fossil remains were designated as “Archicebus achilles.” The remains were found near the Yangtze River and it is one of the most primitive remains every found. The discovery of this ancient primate is PIVOTAL to human evolution and its discovery is strong support for the view that primates originated in ASIA NOT AFRICA! The fossil remains were discovered by a farmer in Central China in Hubei Province and donated to a university.
The primate was small enough to fit into the palm of your hand making it even smaller than the pygmy mouse lemur which is the smallest living primate today. It weighed less than an ounce and provides a vital “missing link” in human evolution. Further, it is almost a complete skeleton so more than just a few tidbits of this prehistoric ape have been found.
The notion that primates originated in Asia instead of Africa is heralded as a recent view but, in fact, that is not completely so. Some researchers in the 19th and 20th centuries believed primates originated in Asia and they also believed Asia was the place of origin of early humans. But that all changed with the “discovery” of Piltdown Man in the UK which turned out to be the greatest paleontological HOAX in history!! And the hoax was not short lived as it was taught as fact in universities for several years. Researchers at the time were looking for the “missing link” in Asia when suddenly Piltdown Man was discovered in the UK and the focus of paleontology was redirected to Europe and Africa as a result. Asia became largely ignored and the search for ancient human ancestors was on in Africa. Of course many fossil remains were found in Africa which had an environment more conducive to fossil formation. Due to the wet and tropical environment of SE Asia fossil remains are few.
The primate was discovered by Paleontologist Dr Xijun Ni and he postulates that during the early Eocene Period the region would have been surrounded by lush tropical forests and a large series of lakes. The primate was arboreal (tree dwelling) and due to its small eye sockets it is believed it was mainly active during the day feeding on insects.
All primates are believed to have evolved from a common ancestor including humans. Of course there are many gaps in the evolution of primates but the more complete fossils we find, the better able we are to fill those gaps.
Although may ancient human ancestor remains have been found in Africa I tend to think we are missing an entire chapter in the human story in Asia. Researchers originally suspected Asia was the point of origin for humans and other primates but that all changed with the Piltdown Man hoax. All of the focus has been on Africa and since the environment of SE Asia is not conducive for fossil formation we don’t have many fossils from the region. However, those that have been found tend to be very old.
Louis Leakey is noted for his discoveries of human ancestor fossils in East Africa but Leakey ended up leaving his research and going to the Calico Hills in California with the intention to prove that Africa was not the only place where ancient man evolved. What led him to that belief? I tend to agree with him and I think there has not been enough focus on Asia and the Americas in the search for early human ancestors. YES I do believe there were prehistoric species of man in the Americas!
If this species of primate continues to hold up to being the oldest ever found then there is going to have to be a shift in paleontology and Asia is once again going to have to be focused on. With the oldest know primate now found in China that sheds human and primate evolution in a whole new light. In fact, it suggests that primates may have originated in ASIA and perhaps migrated to Africa and not the other way around. If so then that means the same for man! Ancient human ancestors may have well began in ASIA not Africa and this discovery adds more support to that theory! In fact, it seems more and more possible that we’ve been looking in all of the WRONG places for our earliest ancestors. Humans may well be OUT OF ASIA and not out of Africa.