Darwinius may be a little longer in the tooth than previously believed, as per a recent study. An early primate's famous fossil shares more in common with modern lemurs based on how its teeth erupted, according to new model developed at University of Toronto Scarborough.
The model, developed by researchers Sergi Lopez-Torres, Mary Silcox and Michael Schillaci, re-examined the interpretation of Darwinius, the best preserved fossil primate known to exist.
By looking at the sequence in which adult teeth come in - known as dental eruption - in primates, they found it had more in common with lemurs than squirrel monkeys, the model species used by the researchers who discovered Darwinius.
Every species has a particular pattern by which their teeth come in and this allows them to estimate the age of fossils that died before their adult teeth could emerge, said Lopez-Torres, adding it seems that the pattern of dental eruption for Darwinius is more similar to that of lemurs than to that of monkeys.
Before looking at Darwinius, Lopez-Torres did a large study of 97 living and fossil primates in order to get a clearer picture of how different species compare through patterns of dental development.
He found that the three most primitive ancestors, the ancestor to lemurs and lorises, the ancestor to monkeys, apes, and tarsiers and the ancestor to all primates, share the same eruption sequence with each other.
That pattern shares some similarities with the dental eruption sequence found in Darwinius. The study is published online in the journal Royal Society Open Science