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Early Primates Lived Out On A Limb

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Posted By Saruman on Friday, November 22 2002

Subject: Early Primates Lived Out On A Limb

Of all the things that distinguish humans and other primates -- a thumb, the ability to leap and forward-facing eyes -- it was the ability to grasp that evolved first, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

A 56-million-year-old skeleton found in Wyoming shows that one of the earliest primate ancestors had an opposable big toe, allowing it to creep to the outermost branches of trees to hunt nuts and fruit. It also probably kept a sharp eye out to avoid becoming someone else's meal.

"Now we know that grasping evolved before eyes facing forward ... and before leaping," Eric Sargis, a Yale University anthropologist and expert in early mammals who commented on the study, said in a telephone interview.

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