Primate Evolution Influenced By Climate Change, Could Have Continued In Asia If Not For Global Cooling

First Posted: May 11, 2016 04:29 AM EDT

The new discovery of six primate fossils comprising of tooth and jaw fragments, in China, has reportedly strengthened the theory that primates emerged in Asia millions of years ago. However, as per scientists, the changing climate got into the path of further primate evolution.

The theory that humans first evolved from primates in Africa is well accepted by evolutionary scientists, and hundreds of fossils give evidence for the same. However, there are pieces still missing from the huge puzzle regarding intercontinental Asia‐Africa human evolution. Scientists have still not been able to figure out how the transition took place between species in Asia and Africa. Does it somehow mean that prehistoric ancestors were naturally inhabitants of Africa? The discovery of the primate fossils in China suggest otherwise, as per the recent observations.

As per a study published in Science journal, anthropoid primates that are the ancestors of monkeys, apes and man, had appeared first in Asia. According to paleontologist K. Christopher Beard, co-author of the study, understanding the link between early primate and human evolution in Asia has always been a mystery. At some point in time, the evolutionary process of primates shifted from Asia to Africa. However until now, no one could really put forth a theory for this transition.

According to Beard, human evolution would have continued in Asia instead of making a transition to Africa if there had been no extensive global cooling. Primate species were thought to have inhabited our planet 34 million years ago, which was a period of transition between the Eocene and Oligocene eras. However, several regions on the planet became unsuitable for the primates, which liked warm and wet environments more. Therefore, the climate change between the Eocene and Oligocene era finally wiped out anthropoids in Asia. The surviving species made a shift to Africa and flourished there, resulting in the birth of new species. The study highlights the role of climate change in primate evolution, as they are vulnerable to it. 

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