Old anthropoid fossils found, according to report in Science vol. 310, p300, 14 October 2005 and “Science Roundup” (an email newsletter for AAAS members) 31 October 2005. “Anthropoid” is the collective term for apes and monkeys. A team of scientists led by Erik Seiffert of Oxford University have found “the earliest and most complete African anthropoid fossils from the Fayum desert region of Egypt. The fossils are about 37 million years old and consist of small teeth and jawbones from two tiny monkey-like creatures of the genus ‘Biretia'”. The oldest anthropoid fossils from Africa as a whole are dated at 45 million years, and consist of a few isolated teeth of a creature named Algeripithecus reported in the early 1990s. One of the new fossils, a small piece of upper jaw indicated the distance between the roof of the creature’s mouth and the floor of its eye socket was very short. A scan of this bone indicated there was no sinus (air space) inside the bone. These are features seen in large eyed nocturnal animals, such as the Tarsier, so this fossil creature may also have been nocturnal.
Editorial Comment: These findings remind us how fragmentary the fossil record is, compared to the complete evolutionary trees displayed in museums and text books. If a few teeth reported in the 1990’s and fragments of jawbone reported in 2005 are “the earliest and most complete” African monkey fossils found, then the evolutionary trees that have been around for the last hundred years showing a progression from mammals to monkeys and apes (and onto humans) are not based on fossil facts, but blind faith. (Ref. anthropology, fossils, monkeys)