Tarsiiform primates have long been regarded as a Laurasian group, with an extensive fossil record in the Eocene of North America and Europe1-4 and two important but less well-known records from Asia5,6. The only living genus is Tarsius (Tarsiidae), whereas all of the fossil tarsier-like primates are usually placed in the extinct family Omomyidae3. We now report the discovery of Afrotarsius chatrathi from early Oligocene rocks of Fayum Province, Egypt. This is the first known tarsiiform primate from Africa. Compared with fossil primates, the molar tooth morphology of this diminutive prosimian is most similar to that of the European Eocene microchoerine Pseudoloris; however, the closest similarity is to the molars of Tarsius. Because the phylogenetic relationships among living Tarsius and the omomyids remain unclear7,8 and because of the fragmentary nature of the only known specimen of this new primate, allocation of Afrotarsius to either Omomyidae or Tarsiidae is necessarily provisional. As we believe that its molar teeth are more like those of Tarsius than of any omomyids (including Pseudoloris), we tentatively assign the new genus to the extant family Tarsiidae as its only known fossil representative. Recovery of a Tarsius-like primate from Africa suggests that it or its ancestors might have been immigrants from Europe, may have been derived from an unknown Asian stock related to the ancestry of Tarsius, or may have originated in Africa. ?? 1985 Nature Publishing Group.
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Afrotarsius chatrathi, first tarsiiform primate (? Tarsiidae) from Africa