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Plesiadapiform mammals, as stem primates, are key to understanding the evolutionary and ecological origins of Pan-Primates and Euarchonta. The Purgatoriidae, as the geologically oldest and most primitive known plesiadapiforms and one of the oldest known placental groups, are also central to the evolutionary radiation of placentals and the Cretaceous-Palaeogene biotic recovery on land. Here, we report new dental fossils of Purgatorius from early Palaeocene (early Puercan) age deposits in northeastern Montana that represent the earliest dated occurrences of plesiadapiforms. We constrain the age of these earliest purgatoriids to magnetochron C29R and most likely to within 105–139 thousand years post- K/Pg boundary. Given the occurrence of at least two species, Purgatorius janisae and a new species, at the locality, we provide the strongest support to date that purgatoriids and, by extension, Pan-Primates, Euarchonta and Placentalia probably originated by the Late Cretaceous. Within 1 million years of their arrival in northeastern Montana, plesiadapiforms outstripped archaic ungulates in numerical abundance and dominated the arboreal omnivore–frugivore niche in mammalian local faunas.


This work was originally published in Royal Society Open Science, available at

Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.



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