The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans

The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans

The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans

The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans

Synopsis

Taking us back roughly 45 million years into the Eocene, "the dawn of recent life," Chris Beard, a world-renowned expert on the primate fossil record, offers a tantalizing new perspective on our deepest evolutionary roots. In a fast-paced narrative full of vivid stories from the field, he reconstructs our extended family tree, showing that the first anthropoids--the diverse and successful group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans--evolved millions of years earlier than was previously suspected and emerged in Asia rather than Africa.

In The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey, Beard chronicles the saga of two centuries of scientific exploration in search of anthropoid origins, from the early work of Georges Cuvier, the father of paleontology, to the latest discoveries in Asia, Africa, and North America's Rocky Mountains. Against this historical backdrop, he weaves the story of how his own expeditions have unearthed crucial fossils--including the controversial primate Eosimias --that support his compelling new vision of anthropoid evolution. The only book written for a wide audience that explores this remote phase of our own evolutionary history, The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey adds a fascinating new chapter to our understanding of humanity's relationship to the rest of life on earth.

Excerpt

The story of human evolution has been told many times before, and it will no doubt continue to be revised and updated as new fossils are discovered. My goal in writing this book has been to add a much-needed prologue to what is now a familiar tale. If the major outlines of human origins are settled, the search for anthropoid origins remains scientifically in its infancy. Great strides have been made over the past two centuries, but we remain fairly ignorant of such basic questions as when, where, how, and why our earliest anthropoid ancestors evolved. This appraisal is not meant as a critique. Ignorance is to science as economic opportunity is to capitalism. It is more rewarding to toil in earnest on an unsettled issue than to tinker at the margins of a topic that is largely known. the story of anthropoid origins is fascinating precisely because so much of it remains in flux. At the same time, it is a story that has never been made available to a wide audience, one that extends beyond the narrow group of academic specialists who have devoted much of their professional lives to solving its mysteries.

Teamwork plays a vital role in paleontology, because scientific advances in this field hinge on isolated discoveries that reach across vast swaths of space and time. Over the past decade or so, I have had the privilege of working with some of the finest and most accomplished pa-

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