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Evolution of Primates

Categories: Evolution

Since the beginning of the primate evolution, Anthropologist has been seeking to answer various questions and the causes of this evolution. Primates developed in size and physically in the million years ago. Primates are differentiated into two groups, prosimians and anthropoid. Monkey is one of the examples of primates and humans are also regarded as primates.

Climate condition and plate shift are factors that contribute to primate evolution. This essay will firstly discuss the emergence of primates. secondly, the emergence of anthropoid.

thirdly, it will discuss the impact of plate shifts and lastly, it will discuss the impact of climate changes.

The emergence of primates

The world was created long time ago and its was more differently compare to the now. It was a different ERA and different primates. The first and well-known primates are plesiadapis and omomyids which are difference from the modern primates. These primates look more differently when comparing with human being. Most of their sizes are small when comparing with a human and they are regarded as prosimians.

Plesiadapis and omomyid are two difference primates.

These primates are in the same family as lorises and lemur. According to Dennis O’Neil (1999), “Eocene prosimians were much more widely distributed around the world than now. They lived in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia”. Most primates that appeared after the dinosaurs became extinct were small. They could grasp things, living in the trees and eating insect. Trees are favoring primates differently.

Emergence of anthropoid

Anthropoid refer to the monkeys, apes and humans.

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Hominids evolved from anthropoid. Hominids refers to humans. According to Gunnell (2001), “among the earliest fossil anthropoid primates known are catopithecus browni, serapia eacaena, Arsinoea kallimos, and proteopithecus sylviae, from the late Eocene quarry L-41, Fayum Egypt. Two of these taxa, c. browni and s. eacaena, may be the oldest known member of the propliopithecidae and parapithecidae”.

The fossils remain of the earliest anthropoid are stored in the museums as evident. Chimpanzees and gorillas are the apes that more closest to human being, even their brains are larger and their DNA are nearly the same as human. Chimpanzees can use their hands for walking and their hands are longer than legs while human have short hands when comparing with legs and cannot use hands for walking.

There are theories created by different individuals. These theories are called arboreal theory. Arboreal can be elaborated as primates that living in trees. Each theory talks about things that favor the emergence of primates, those primates living in trees. Most primates are favored by their feet and hands when climbing trees, including monkeys. Their grasping feet have full support equally as their hands and they can swing fast in trees using both feet and hands.

Being in the tree allows them to vision. They search food by observing from the tree, food like insects. Most primates have a well-developed sense of smell and others have eye orbit on the side of the skull. According to Schoenherr (2009), “Many theories about the evolution of primate sociality and social behaviour are related to this negative idea that primates must be aggressive because they are forced to be social”.

Comparing primates and anthropoid

There are difficulties when comparing primates and anthropoid as primates are differentiated into two, anthropoid and prosimians which means anthropoids are primate. Anthropoid has the appearance and size of a human being, for example, Chimpanzee and gorilla. they have large brains as human beings. According to Smithsonian National Museum (2018), “Besides similar anatomy and behavior, there is DNA evidence.

It confirms that humans are primates and that modern humans and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor between 8 and 6 million years ago. There is only about a 1.2 percent genetic difference between modern humans and chimpanzees throughout much of their genetic code”. There is a difference between prosimians and anthropoid, prosimians are mostly small in size. Lemur and lorises are examples of prosimians.

Plate shift

Term plate shift can be defined as a movement of plate that make the earth which causes volcanoes, changing of continents and earth quakes. The continents have changed their locations in the million years ago. Most continents are now located on different directions and shape including Africa.

The world was different during that Era. According to Dennis O’Neil (1999), “By 16-14 million years ago, in the middle of the Miocene Epoch, the ongoing movement of tectonic plates in the Great Rift Valley system created new volcanic mountain chains in East Africa”. The continent shift affected the primate negatively. There are many primates that went extinct after the plate shift and dinosaurs is one of them. The changing of continents locations means the change of climate condition. Plate shift is a factor that contribute to the evolution of primates.

Climate change

Climate condition is the one that can decide where the primates can or cannot live. Climate condition is different in all areas, other places have high temperature. Weather condition and the change of the season affect plants, primates, and environment. Other areas are dry while others are wet. According to Alex Taylor (2016), “scientists assessed the exposure and potential vulnerability to projected future temperature and precipitation changes of all non- human primate species.

They found that, overall, 419 species of primates such lemur, loris, tarsier, monkeys and apes will experience 10% more warming than the global average”. There are preferences on the primates, some prefer wetland while others may prefer cold land. Lemur and monkey have dissimilar preferences. Climate condition is another factor of primate evolution.


To conclude, Primates are differentiated into two groups. Primate evolution was cause by the plate shift and climate condition. Climate condition can decide where primate can or cannot live. Most primates lived in the million years ago were different from the modern primate. Hominid are human being and they are also regarded as primates.

Humans, chimpanzees and gorillas share the DNA that nearly the same. The continents shift changed the climate condition. Plate shift and climate condition are factors of primate evolution. Dinosaur became extinct after the plate shift.


  • Gunnel, G.F and Miller, E.R. (2001). Origin of anthropoidea: Dental evidence and recognition of early anthropoids in the fossils records, with comments on the Asian anthropoid radiation. American journal of physical anthropology. Vol. 144: pp 177-191
  • Marett, R.R. (1914). Anthropology. London: Thornton Butterworth.
    O’Neil, D. (1999). The first primates. [online]Available at:
  • Smithsonian National museum. (2018). What does it mean to be human? [online] Available at:
  • Schoenherr, N. Primate evolved to be social, not aggressive. [online] Available at:
  • Taylor, A. (2016). Impact of climate condition on primates. article. [online] Available at:

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Evolution of Primates. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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