Today, humans are the most common and widespread primate on the planet and the only primate to exist in North America.
There are currently no monkeys native to North America, but thirty million years ago, a primate called the Ekgmowechashala inhabited the region. It was the last non-human primate to exist on the continent before humans came along.
The small, lemur-like creature has puzzled paleontologists for a long time. There are still many unanswered questions about how Ekgmowechashala came to be in North America, but recently, researchers have been able to piece together some clues to trace its origins.
Primates first appeared in North America at the start of the Eocene period, which was 56 million years ago. For 20 million years, they roamed the continent.
However, as the climate cooled down, they were not able to tolerate the conditions and ultimately went extinct. But then, the Ekgmowechashala emerged millions of years later.
The Ekgmowechashala stood only a foot tall and weighed around five pounds. The fossilized remains of this animal can be found throughout the western United States.
In the latest study of the species, a team of researchers compared the fossils of an Ekgmowechashala and a Palaeohodite, an even older primate from China, and used the information they gleaned to reconstruct the Ekgmowechashala’s family tree.
They found that the upper molars of both species were similar, which indicated that the primates were related.
So, instead of Ekgmowechashala being a survivor of earlier primates that were native to North America, their analysis of the fossils led them to believe that Ekgmowechashala actually evolved in Asia and trekked across land to North America when the continents were still connected.