Monday, April 02, 2007

Primates lived in Texas 42 million years ago when Laredo was on the coast

Forty two million years ago, the area that today is quite-inland Laredo was a coastal lagoon, and researchers have discovered evidence primates occupied the area ("Researchers study evidence of ancient primates in Laredo area," Waco Herald Tribune, April 2). See an artist's depiction of one of the animals at left. According to news reports:

Lamar University Professor Jim Westgate and two colleagues announced the discovery of three new genera and four new species of primates based on their examination of material removed from Lake Casa Blanca International State Park near Laredo and the Mexican border.

Westgate said the Laredo area was a coastal lagoon during the stage of geologic history known as the Eocene Epoch, which was when primates were becoming extinct on much of the continent.

"It was kind of the last gasp for the primates in North America," said Westgate, a professor of earth and space sciences.

The researchers presented their findings last week at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Philadelphia.

Westgate and others are still studying the 15 tons of material excavated from the park's fossil deposits between 1983 and 1996. Researchers recovered 1,800 mammal teeth, including 50 from primates.

Dana Cope, a co-author of the study and associate professor of anthropology at College of Charleston in South Carolina, compared the teeth with other primate teeth from the same era. He said the newly discovered teeth, which measure about 4 millimeters, were not from known primates.

"This is a very important locality," Cope said. "Not much is known about Eocene mammals outside the Rocky Mountains."

The Beaumont Enterprise linked to these additional web resources on the topic:
  • Lake Casa Blanca International State Park near Laredo
  • The Eocene Epoch link 1
  • The Eocene Epoch link 2
  • The Eocene Epoch link 3
  • Tarsier link 1
  • Tarsier link 2
  • Tarsier link 3
  • Galago/Bush Baby link 1
  • Galago/Bush Baby link 2
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