NIU Prof Part Of Fossil Discovery

Jun 6, 2013

Dan Gebo

An international research team has made a major fossil discovery. An NIU professor played a role in compiling the findings, which were announced this week.

Researchers say they had discovered the world’s oldest-known primate skeleton. The fossil, which dates back around 55 million years, was found in China.

NIU anthropologist Dan Gebo says he was brought in for a particular reason.

"I study the anatomy of living and fossil primates, and I'm particularly an expert on foot anatomy" Gebo said.

Gebo says the foot is one of the most interesting aspects of this specimen.

"The foot looks like a monkey, but the rest of the body looks like a very primitive primate. So it just has all these unusual characteristics that we haven't really seen in a fossil before" Gebo said.

Gebo says another thing that stands out is that this tiny skeleton is almost complete. He says that's rare for this type of discovery.

Scientists say the fossil provides key evidence of the earliest phases of human and primate evolution. The findings appear in the journal Nature.