Science: Just a Nasty Little Thing

Still, the monkey-like creature was our ancestor

They were hardly prepossessing. Their small heads, sinewy limbs and long tails gave them the look of a lowly monkey. Largely tree dwellers, they scampered from branch to branch on all fours. Though they were not very formidable—males weighed no more than 5½ kg (12 lbs.), females about 80% of that—they could take on a ferocious appearance. Whenever the males competed with one another for females or were threatened, they would bare their fanglike canines. Comments Duke University Paleontologist Elwyn Simons: "A nasty little thing."

Yet the beastly little primates were much more than that. They...

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