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

  • Philip D. Gingerich,

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

  • Jörg Habersetzer,

    Affiliation: Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt, Germany

  • Jørn H. Hurum mail,

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

  • Wighart von Koenigswald,

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

  • B. Holly Smith

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

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

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Posted by rossc on 31 May 2009 at 09:33 GMT

While this paper does a fine job of description of the fossil specimen, two serious weaknesses compromise the phylogenetic conclusions of this paper. (i) Absence of comparisons with fossil primates that have been shown by rigorous phylogenetic analysis to be stem anthropoids and stem tarsiers (Kay, R.F., Ross, C.F., Williams, B.A., 1997. Anthropoid origins. Science 275, 797-804; Ross, C., Williams, B.A., Kay, R.F., 1998. Phylogenetic analysis of anthropoid relationships. Journal of Human Evolution 35, 221-306; Seiffert, E.R., Simons, E.L., Clyde, W.C., Rossie, J.B., Attia, Y., Bown, T.M., Chatrath, P., Mathison, M.E., 2005. Basal Anthropoids from Egypt and the Antiquity of Africa's Higher Primate Radiation. Science 310(5746), 300-304; Bajpai, S., Kay, R.F., Williams, B.A., Das, D.P., Kapur, V.V., Tiwari, B.N., 2008. The oldest Asian record of Anthropoidea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105(32), 11093-11098) makes it impossible to determine character polarities of the major primate crown groups. (ii) The assertion that Darwinius is more closely related to extant Haplorhini than to extant Strepsirrhini (note mis-spelling in Figure S7) can only be maintained in absence of a rigorous and comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the new fossil using all the available evidence (see above references). No doubt such analyses will be forthcoming from other workers. At present, however, it is safe to say that, as Franzen et al. note, Darwinius is best viewed as a cercamoniin adapoid. Contrary to Franzen et al., however, cercamoniins are most parsimoniously viewed as stem strepsirrhines, not stem haplorhines.

No competing interests declared.