Plesiadapis (Greek for "almost Adapis"); pronounced PLESS-ee-ah-DAP-iss
Woodlands of North America and Eurasia
Late Paleocene (60-55 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 2 feet long and 5 pounds
Fruits and seeds
Lemur-like body; rodent-like head; gnawing teeth
One of the earliest prehistoric primates yet discovered, Plesiadapis lived way back in the Paleocene epoch, a mere five million years or so after the dinosaurs went extinct--which does much to explain its rather small size (Paleocene mammals had yet to attain the plus sizes typical of the mammalian megafauna of the latter part of the Cenozoic Era). The lemur-like Plesiadapis looked nothing like a modern human, or even the later monkeys from which humans evolved; rather, this small mammal was important for the shape and arrangement of its teeth, which were already semi-suited to an omnivorous diet. Over tens of millions of years, evolution would send the descendants of Plesiadapis down from the trees and onto the open plains, where they would opportunistically eat anything that crawled, hopped, or slithered their way.