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Research Article

Complete Primate Skeleton from the Middle Eocene of Messel in Germany: Morphology and Paleobiology

  • Jens L. Franzen,

    Affiliations: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt, Germany, Naturhistorisches Museum Basel, Basel, Switzerland

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  • Philip D. Gingerich,

    Affiliation: Museum of Paleontology and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America

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  • Jörg Habersetzer,

    Affiliation: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt, Germany

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  • Jørn H. Hurum mail,

    j.h.hurum@nhm.uio.no

    Affiliation: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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  • Wighart von Koenigswald,

    Affiliation: Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie, Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany

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  • B. Holly Smith

    Affiliation: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America

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  • Published: May 19, 2009
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005723
  • Published in PLOS ONE

Reader Comments (13)

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Rationale behind rating

Posted by AndyFarke on 20 May 2009 at 14:56 GMT

The specimen documented in this paper is undoubtedly an important fossil, particularly because it is the most complete adapoid primate skeleton known to date. Although other, partial adapoid skeletons are known (hence 4/5 stars in the "insight" category), Darwinius will be a valuable data point for future studies of primate evolution.

The proposed placement of Darwinius and adapoids with haplorhines will likely be disputed by future workers, particularly due to the absence of a comprehensive cladistic analysis incorporating the new specimen. Cladistic analysis is not perfect (it is relatively easy to pick and choose characters to support any topology), but it would allow another evaluation of the new taxon's (controversial) relationships. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see how other fossil haplorhines (e.g., Eosimias) now fall out in light of the new data. This was not completely evaluated in the paper, unfortunately. In the absence of a parsimony analysis, it is possible to imagine alternative scenarios in which some characters of Darwinius are homoplasies rather than synapomorphies with haplorhines. Additionally, some of the synapomorphies described here probably will be reinterpreted by other workers, which could further affect the hypothesis for where Darwinius lies phylogenetically. So, I have only rated the paper 2/5 stars for reliability.

I have rated the paper 4/5 stars for style, in light of the clear prose and numerous detailed figures within the paper.

Competing interests declared: member of PLoS ONE editorial board