Researchers at the Catalan Institute of Paleontology Miquel Crusafont found in Lleida, Spain, a new primate species that lived in the forests that covered Europe 37 million years ago.
This new species was discovered through more than 120 recovered remains near the village of Sossís, a small municipality in the region of Pallars Jussà, about 500 kilometers’ northeast of Madrid.
The research was published in the Journal of Human Evolution, a leading review in paleontology that studies the evolution of primates.
According to the institute, it is a relatively small primate, called Microchoerus hookeri.
The archaeological site of Sossis was discovered in the 1940s during the exploration of a lignite mine. Since then, several remains of mammals have been found, including rodents, marsupials, primitive carnivores, ancestors of horses and up to four Different types of primates (Adapis, Microchoerus, Nievesia and Pseudoloris).
The fossils that allowed to discover this new species, come from several excavation campaigns carried out by 80 researchers of the Catalan Institute of Paleontology (ICP) Miquel Crusafont.
Parts recovered in the middle of the last century by the team of Miquel Crusafont were also analyzed, which were distributed between ICP and the Museum of Natural History of Basel, Switzerland, with which the paleontologist collaborated regularly.
As with all representatives of his group, the fossil remains of Microchoerus hookeri correspond fundamentally to isolated teeth and fragments of jaws. Other remains of the skeleton are rarely found, as they are much more fragile than the teeth.
In the course of this study, up to 120 fossils of the Microchoerus were analyzed, in what seems to be the largest sample of remains of this genus in Spain.
The representatives of this group are characterized mainly by having large upper and lower incisors, with relatively small canines.
However, the most characteristic pieces are the molars, which present a series of very complex enamel folds.
In the case of Microchoerus hookeri, teeth have some characteristics that have not yet been found in other species of the same genus, such as absence, reduction to very small measures of some cusps that appear very developed in other species.
“Based on the morphology of the teeth, we interpreted it to have a fruit and resin based diet”, explained Raef Minwer-Barakat, lead author of the study.
The researchers further believe that these were nocturnal, arboreal, jump-able and small animals weighing between 500 and 800 grams.
In future investigations, it is expected that remains of the skeleton will be found that contribute to improve the knowledge of the species.