One incredible ocean crossing may have made human evolution possible - The Conversation UK
Apr 29, 2021 1 min, 22 secs
At the time, around 50 million years ago, Africa was an island isolated from the rest of the world by ocean – so how did primates get there.

Instead, we’re left with a far more unlikely scenario: early primates may have rafted to Africa, floating hundreds of miles across oceans on vegetation and debris.

Plants, insects, reptiles, rodents and primates have all been found to colonise island continents in this way – including a remarkable Atlantic crossing that took monkeys from Africa to South America 35 million years ago.

The oldest true primates also occur outside Africa.

Teilhardina, related to monkeys and apes, lived 55 million years ago, throughout Asia, North America, and Europe.

Primates arrived in Africa later.

But Africa split from South America and became an island 100 million years ago, and only connected with Asia 20 million years ago.

If primates colonised Africa during the 80 million years the continent spent isolated, then they needed to cross water.

Lemurs arrived from Africa around 20 million years ago.

Since Madagascar has been an island since the time of the dinosaurs, they apparently rafted the 400 kilometre-wide Mozambique Channel.

Even more extraordinary is the existence of monkeys in South America: howlers, spider monkeys and marmosets.

They arrived 35 million years ago, again from Africa.

From South America, monkeys rafted again: to North America, then twice to the Caribbean.

But before any of this could happen, rafting events would first need to bring primates to Africa: one brought the ancestor of lemurs, another carried the ancestor of monkeys, apes, and ourselves.

Rafting explains how rodents colonised Africa, then South America.

Marsupials, evolving in North America, probably rafted to South America, then Antarctica, and finally Australia.


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