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18-million-year-old hamster-sized monkey fossil discovered in Peru

Tuesday, July 30th 2019, 3:43 pm - A team of Peruvian and American scientists has found the 18-million-year-old remains of one of the smallest monkeys that ever existed.

DUKE UNIVERSITY - Tooth A fossilized tooth found in Peru’s Amazon jungle has been identified as belonging to a new species of tiny monkey the size of a hamster. The find helps bridge a 15-million-year gap in the fossil record for New World monkeys. 3D scan by Duke SMIF.

A fossilized tooth discovered in Peru’s Amazon jungle has been identified as part of a new species of monkey that weighed about the same as a hamster.

The animal has been called Parvimico materdei, or “tiny monkey from the Mother of God River.”

"The specimen is important because it helps bridge a 15-million-year gap in the fossil record for New World monkeys," reads a statement on the Duke University website.

The fossil was found attached to an exposed riverbank along the Río Alto Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru.

Researchers sifted through some 2,000 pounds of sediment that contained hundreds of fossils of several small animal species before finding the sole monkey tooth.


“Primate fossils are as rare as hen’s teeth,” lead author Richard Kay, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke, said in a statement.

Kay said the upper molar was “double the size of the head of a pin” and “could fall through a window screen."

“It’s by far the smallest fossil monkey that’s ever been found worldwide."

Based on the size and shape of the tooth, it's believed the animal ate fruits and insects and weighed in at less than half a pound.

Kay said there is one type of monkey alive today that is slightly smaller, the pygmy marmoset.

WIKIPEDIA - pygmy marmoset A Pygmy marmoset. Courtesy: Wikipedia

The fossil will be permanently stored at the University of Piura's Institute of Paleontology.

A paper detailing the findings was published on July 23 in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Source: Duke University

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