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Human and Primate Evolution

Major Publications

  1. Jablonski, N.G. (In press) Primate homeland: Forests and the evolution of primates during the Tertiary and Quaternary in Asia. For: Anthropological Sciences.
  2. Jablonski, N.G. (In press) Primate diversity and environmental seasonality in historical perspective. In: D. Brockman and C. van Schaik, eds., Primate Seasonality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Jablonski, N.G. (In press) The fossil record and biogeographic history of gibbons in China. In: L. Sheeran, (ed.) The Gibbon in China.
  4. Jablonski, N.G. (2003) The evolution of the tarsiid niche. In: Wright, P.C., Simons, E.L., and Gursky, S., eds. Tarsiers: Past, Present and Future. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, pp. 35-49.
  5. Jablonski, N.G., Whitfort, M. J., Roberts-Smith, N. and Xu, Q.-Q. (2000) The influence of life history and diet on the distribution of of catarrhine primates during the Pleistocene in eastern Asia. J. Hum. Evol. 39:131-157.
  6. Jablonski, N.G. and Kelley, J. (1997) Did a major immunological event shape the evolutionary histories of apes and Old World Monkeys? J. Hum. Evol. 33:513-520.
  7. Jablonski, N.G. and Crompton, R.H. (1994) Feeding behavior, mastication, and tooth wear in the western tarsier, Tarsius bancanus. Int. J. Primatol. 15:29-59.
  8. Jablonski, N.G. and Peng Y.-Z., (eds.) (1993) Primatology in China. Double issue of Folia Primatologica devoted to Chinese primates. 132 pp.
  9. Jablonski, N.G. (1986) A history of form and function in the primate masticatory apparatus from the ancestral primate through the strepsirhines. In: Swindler, D.R. (ed.) Comparative Primate Biology. Volume I. Systematics, Anatomy, and Evolution. New York: Alan Liss, pp. 537-558.

Key Publication

Jablonski, Nina G.. (2003). The Evolution of the Tarsiid Niche. Pages 35-49 in Patricia C. Wright, Elwyn L. Simons and Sharon Gursky (eds.), Tarsiers: Past, Present and Future. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


Long before indisputable fossil evidence of tarsiers was discovered, tarsiers were considered “living fossils”. This assignment was based as much on their primitive gestalt as on the morphological affinities of tarsiers to members of various Paleogene primate and plesiadapiform taxa, and on predictions based on cladistic reconstructions of the tarsiers phylogenic position. Thus, through many years of learned discourse on tarsiers, “the ‘living fossil’ [had] no fossil record!” (Schwartz 1984, 47). In recent years, this situation has improved, although the fossil record of tarsiers is still more gap than record. The fragmentary remains of fossil tarsiids recovered from deposits of middle Eocene age onward from Egypt, China, and Thailand indicate that the tarsier’s “living fossil” moniker is well deserved. The morphology of these fragments is remarkably modern, or perhaps better said, the body plan of modern tarsiers is remarkably ancient and conservative. This leads to the inevitable question: What made tarsiers successful in the first place, and why have they persisted, little changed, through most of the Tertiary through to the present day? These questions are the heart of this paper.

Download a printable version of this paper.