Palaeos Palaeos Primates
Vertebrates Overview

Primates: Overview

Abbreviated Dendrogram


With the present unit we come to our own biological order, the Primates. Evolutionarily and ecologically speaking, the primates are a large. mostly tropical to subtropical, order of arboreal mammals; the most speciose and diverse of the Archonta. They are morphologically generalised, but with highly developed visual senses (colour and binocular vision) as well as agility prehensile hands, feet and tail, for leaping from branch to branch, as well as high intelligence brought on by sensory and tactile acuity. Primates are traditionally divided into two groups: the prosimians (lemurs and tarsiers), who represent the more ancestral types, and the anthropoids (moneys, apes and humans). Prosimians represent a paraphyletic taxon which has been replaced by Strepsirrhini, or curly-nosed primates, and Haplorhini, or dry-nosed primates, consisting of tarsiers and higher primates. These latter are in turn divided into platyrrhine ("flat-nosed") or New World monkeys of South and Central America and catarrhine (narrow-nosed) monkeys and apes of Africa and southeastern Asia.

19th to early to mid 20th century diagrams tend to arrange the primates in an ascending great chain of being culminating in man. This has since been rejected in favour of non-hierarchical, cladistic, classifications. Nevertheless, as a concession to popular interest, we have a number of pages dedicated to hominoid evolution.

Today anatomically modern humans are the most successful form of higher life the Earth has seen; if success is measures in global distribution, abundance, impact on the environment, and position as apex preditor of almost every food chain on the planet. But prior to the end Pleistocene and Holocene world, humans were one more species in the vast richness of the natural world, and merely one small twig of the primate evolutionary tree. It is to this latter topic we will now turn. MAK120708

MAK120708, Creative Commons Attribution