The Fossil Record of Primate Phylogeny

  • Elwyn L. Simons
Part of the Advances in Primatology book series (volume 62)


Phylogeny is the study of the real genealogical relationship of taxa. It is not fully knowable. Phylogenetic trees combine information from fossil forms, from living species, from dating, from anatomy, and from chemistry, but none of these fields can stand alone in reconstructing phylogeny. Neither dendrograms grouping extrapolated dates of dichotomies with present-day species nor phylogenetic trees including only fossil forms placed on noncommittal side branches are adequate. Molecular biology can be seen as one field contributing to the understanding of phylogeny, but in no sense should it be viewed as overthrowing or supplanting the evidence from other disciplines. Dendrograms with branch-point dates extrapolated from presently living species can contribute to understanding phylogeny in some cases, but such charts are devoid of historical content, that is, the names, the nature, and the way of life of the fossil forms themselves. In addition, many splitting-time dendrograms, for primates at least, bear little relation to the record left by extinct members of this order. A definite problem exists in resolving these two major sorts of approaches.


Fossil Record Late Miocene Early Tertiary Splitting Time South Equatorial Current 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elwyn L. Simons
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Geophysics, Peabody MuseumYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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