Paleontological investigations at sites in Sihong County, Jiangsu Province, China since 1981 have yielded a sizeable collection of previously undescribed fossil catarrhines from the Xiacaowan Formation. The associated vertebrate fauna indicates a late early Miocene age (correlating with MN 4, late Orleanian of Europe, ~ 17-18 Ma), which establishes the Sihong primates as the earliest known catarrhines from Eurasia. The fossil primates are assigned to two species: Dionysopithecus shuangouensis Li, 1978 and Platodontopithecus jianghuaiensis Gu and Lin, 1983. Although the new material from Sihong consists mainly of isolated teeth, it does provide important new information on the anatomy of Dionysopithecus and Platodontopithecus that helps to clarify their phylogenetic and taxonomic status. Previous studies have suggested that the Sihong catarrhines might be closely related to the proconsulids from the early Miocene of East Africa. However, with more extensive material available for comparison, the Sihong primates can now be shown to share a number of key derived features with pliopithecids. This new evidence helps to resolve a longstanding problem concerning the origins of the Pliopithecidae. It was previously considered that specialized pliopithecids migrated into Europe during MN 5, originating from an unknown antecedent and location in Africa. Recognition that the Sihong primates have affinities with pliopithecids, but are more primitive, suggests that the initial differentiation and diversification of the clade may have taken place in Asia rather than Africa. The earliest Eurasian catarrhines probably migrated into tropical Asia as part of a major faunal interchange with Africa that occurred during MN 3.
- Xiacaowan Formation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics