Reports of the National Center for Science Education

Review: The Primate Fossil Record

The Primate Fossil Record
Walter C Hartwig, Editor
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 530 pages.
Reviewed by
W Eric Meikle, NCSE Outreach Coordinator
This is an admirable effort to provide a concentrated and uniform treatment of the fossil record of that mammalian order of primary interest to our ever-anthropocentric selves. New fossil discoveries related closely to human origins and ancestry tend to be well-publicized and receive wide popular attention. Every year at least one or two new hominin specimens, if not species, make headlines. The pace of such significant fossil discoveries has quickened throughout the last century, and especially in the last three decades.

Those who are not primate paleontologists, however, probably are not aware how closely this pattern of increasing knowledge about our Pliocene and Pleistocene hominin relatives is paralleled by an increasingly rich fossil record for the entire Primate order, covering more than 50 million years. Essentially all fossil primate groups are much better known today than they were in 1960, or even in 1980. However, no comprehensive reference work on this topic has been published in recent years. This book fills that gap, and will serve as a starting point for professionals and advanced students for years to come. While technical, expensive, and not intended for beginners, it does contain numerous illustrations and extensive references to the primary scientific literature, as well as discussions of interpretations and implications of this wealth of primate fossils.

This version might differ slightly from the print publication.