Wednesday 19 September 2012

An Omomyid Primate from the Eocene of South London.

The Omomyids were a group of Palaeocene-Oligocene Primates similar, and probably related to, the modern Tarsiers. They had large, forward facing, eyes and grasping hands and feet with nails instead of claws. Their teeth sugest that they had a diet of fruit and insects, and their skeltel morphology that they lived in trees and that most species were nocturnal. They appeared in the fossil record in the fossil record 59 million years ago and are found in North America and Eurasia, with controversial specimems from Africa.

In a paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica on 5 September 2012, Jerry Hooker of the Department of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum in Lodon describes a new species of Omomyid Primate from the Eocene of Croydon in South London. The site, at Park Hill, was first excavated during the digging of a railway cutting in 1882, and was re-exposed in 1998 during the widening of the Croydon Tramlink, when it was bulk sampled for small fossils.

The new species is described on the basis of a fragment of the dentary (lower jaw), with five intact teeth. This is sufficient to asign the specimen to the pre-described genus Melaneremia, but to rule it out from the only species currently assigned to the genus, Melaneremia bryanti. On this basis it is assinged to a new species, Melaneremia schrevei, named in honour of Pierre Schreve, who took part in the 1998 excavation and who 'helped in numerous ways

The left dentary of the omomyid primate Melaneremia schrevei in (top) occlusal view, (middle) buccal/lateral view and (bottom) lingual/medial view. Hooker (2012).

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