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The fossils were found on Ellesmere Island, located in Nunavut, Canada, within sedimentary layers associated with the early Eocene epoch, potentially providing insight into how ecosystems may evolve in the years to come.
Researchers at the University of Kansas have identified two sister
According to Kristen Miller, lead author and a doctoral student at the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas, both species – Ignacius mckennai and I. dawsonae – descended from a common northbound ancestor who possessed a spirit “to boldly go where no primate has gone before.”
The specimens were discovered on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada, in layers of sediment linked with the early Eocene, an epoch of warmer temperatures that could foretell how ecosystems will fare in coming years due to human-driven climate change.
“No primate relative has ever been found at such extreme latitudes,” Miller said. “They’re more usually found around the equator in tropical regions. I was able to do a phylogenetic analysis, which helped me understand how the fossils from Ellesmere Island are related to species found in midlatitudes of North America — places like New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Even down in Texas, we have some fossils that belong to this family as well.”
The Arctic Circle was much warmer when these close evolutionary cousins of primates lived — a boreal ecosystem that hosted a plethora of early Cenozoic