Article: A new microchoerine omomyid (Primates, Mammalia) from the English Early Eocene and its palaeobiogeographical implications
J. J. Hooker
A new genus and species of omomyid primate, Melaneremia bryanti, is described from the Early Eocene Blackheath Beds of Abbey Wood, London, UK. It shares unique derived characters with the European subfamily Microchoerinae and is its most primitive member. It is nevertheless more derived than the primitive omomyid Teilhardina belgica from the beginning of the European Eocene. Cladistic analysis shows that the Microchoerinae are sister group to a clade comprising subfamilies Omomyinae and Anaptomorphinae, but excluding Teilhardina belgica and T. asiatica, which are stem omomyids. The Mammalian Dispersal Event (MDE), which marks the beginning of the Eocene (55.8 Ma), saw the dispersal of primates, perissodactyls and artiodactyls into the Northern Hemisphere. At this time similar species of Teilhardina lived in Europe, Asia and North America. The Abbey Wood microchoerine lived about 1 million years later. It co-occurs with non-primate species identical or very similar to those that lived in North America. The latter were ground-dwellers, whereas the microchoerine and others that show distinct differences from North American relatives were tree-dwellers. Land-bridges connected North America and Europe via Greenland at the beginning of the Eocene, but 2 million years later these had been severed by submarine rifting. North American species at Abbey Wood indicate that a land connection still remained at c. 55 Ma. However, the forest belt that must have been continuous during the MDE to allow tree-dwellers to disperse between the continents is likely by this time to have been disrupted, perhaps by volcanic eruption.