Fossils of Six Extinct Primates Discovered in China

June 20, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. unearth / ʌnˈɜrθ / (v.) – to remove something out of the earth by digging
Example: They unearthed several fossils near my home. 

2. shed light on / ˈʃɛdˈlaɪt ɒn / (phrasal v.) – to make something clear
Example: The study sheds light on several concepts that were once confusing.

3. originate / əˈrɪdʒ əˌneɪt / (v.) – to come from or begin somewhere
Example: Evidence shows that the plant species originated from Asia.

4. wipe out / ˈwaɪp aʊt / (phrasal v.) – to completely destroy or kill off
Example: Many species are in danger of being wiped out because of deforestation.

5. indicate / ˈɪn dɪˌkeɪt / (v.) – to show or suggest that something is true
Example: The age of the discovered fossils indicates that the species died when the world became too cold.


Read the text below.
Fossils of six previously unknown primates have been unearthed in Southern China.

The six fossils found in Yunnan province were discovered by researchers from the University of Kansas (KU) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). According to KU paleontologist Christopher Beard, the newly discovered fossils may possibly shed light on why humans evolved in Africa and not in Asia, despite the previous discovery of the oldest primate fossil in China.

Humans had always been thought to come from Africa, until in 2002, when a 55-million-year-old primate fossil was found in China. The fossil is seven million years older than the oldest primate fossils discovered before it. This discovery suggests that the oldest primate relatives of humans originated from Asia.

The newly found fossils now show that early anthropoids, the closest primate relatives of humans, were possibly wiped out in Asia when the world’s global temperature drastically dropped. Primates survive better in warmer regions, such as Africa and Asia, but the anthropoids that later evolved into humans survived better in Africa.

The fossils found in China seem to indicate that after the climate change, smaller primates dominated Asia. Out of the six fossils discovered, only one was an anthropoid. The other five were smaller primates—four of them bear close resemblance to the lemurs of Madagascar, while the remaining one is similar to the Philippine tarsiers.

Meanwhile, the anthropoids that left Asia before the global cooling happened increased in Africa. Beard speculates that if they had not migrated, humans might not have existed today.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you believe the theory that man’s nearest primate relatives originated from Asia? Why or why not?
·         Do you think that evolution studies are important? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What is the importance of researching about the past?
·         How can knowledge about the past be useful in the present or future? 

June 20, 2016