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Teeny Skull Reveals Ancient Ancestor

How did people get here? Some paleontologists are fascinated with tracing our ancestors back to the earliest possible times. A fossil skull in China is the latest clue to the origin of the human species. The fossil comes from the oldest known primate, a tiny animal that lived in south-central China 55 million years ago. The animal belongs to a group called Teilhardina. Until now, Teilhardina remains had been found only in North America and Europe. Its descendants include today's tarsiers, monkeys, and apes. The newly discovered creature was smaller than any primate alive today. It weighed just 1 ounce and would have fit in the palm of your hand. Because it was so small and had such sharp teeth, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing think that it ate insects. The animal also had small eyes that faced forward, meaning that it might have been active during the day and slept at night. That's surprising because many of Teilhardina's modern relatives eat at night. Other researchers argue that the ancient primate was indeed nocturnal. They base their conclusion on evidence that it had whiskers like most modern nocturnal animals. Scientists are now debating whether primates originated in Asia—rather than in Africa—before migrating around the world. As discussions continue, you might just find it interesting to consider that one of your earliest ancestors could have easily fit in your shoe!—E. Sohn

Teeny Skull Reveals Ancient Ancestor
Teeny Skull Reveals Ancient Ancestor

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