The oldest fossil primates, such as Plesiadapis (pictured), lived around 56 million years ago, but genetic studies suggest that the group may have arisen even earlier than that. Perelman says that her study provides “strong evidence” that the first primates arose from a common ancestor around 90 million years ago. That was around the middle of the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops were still around. It’s not clear where the primates first arose but Asia’s the best guess, given that the flying lemurs, treeshrews and many of the earliest primates are all confined there.
No sooner had the primate family tree established itself than it split into two major trunks, around 87 million years ago. The first group – the wet-nosed strepsirrhines – include lemurs, lorises and bushbabies. We belong to the other group, the dry-nosed haplorrhines, which also includes tarsiers, monkeys and other apes.
Image by me