Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Greek paleontologists find rare prehistoric primate skull

Mesopithecus pentelicus Paleontologists in northern Greece have unearthed the intact skull of a prehistoric primate that lived at least 5 million years ago, a member of the research team said Wednesday.

"The skull still carries the bite marks of a large carnivore, it ranks among the best preserved ever found," Aristotelio University assistant professor of geology Evangelia Tsoukala said. "It gives us a complete image of the animal, as it preserves all its facial characteristics."

Measuring 1.3 meters (4.27 feet) to the tip of its long tail, the primate was a Mesopithecus pentelicus that lived during the Late Miocene period between 5 million and 7 million years ago, she said.

Though the species was herbivorous, the primate's skull has long, sharp canines, identifying it as a male.

The skull was found in a cliffside in the Halkidiki peninsula, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the city of Salonika that was once savannah and forest.

The bones of over 20 animal species, including prehistoric horses, gazelles, giraffes, hyenas, a mastodon, and small rodents have already been found in the region, Tsoukala said.


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