Chester, Stephen G. B.; Williamson, Thomas E.; Bloch, Jonathan I.; Silcox, Mary T.; Sargis, Eric J.
Palaechthonid plesiadapiforms from the Palaeocene of western North America have long been recognized as among the oldest and most primitive euarchontan mammals, a group that includes extant primates, colugos and treeshrews. Despite their relatively sparse fossil record, palaechthonids have played an important role in discussions surrounding adaptive scenarios for primate origins for nearly a half-century. Likewise, palaechthonids have been considered important for understanding relationships among plesiadapiforms, with members of the group proposed as plausible ancestors of Paromomyidae and Microsyopidae. Here, we describe a dentally associated partial skeleton of Torrejonia wilsoni from the early Palaeocene (approx. 62 Ma) of New Mexico, which is the oldest known plesiadapiform skeleton and the first postcranial elements recovered for a palaechthonid. Results from a cladistic analysis that includes new data from this skeleton suggest that palaechthonids are a paraphyletic group of stem primates, and that T. wilsoni is most closely related to paromomyids. New evidence from the appendicular skeleton of T. wilsoni fails to support an influential hypothesis based on inferences from craniodental morphology that palaechthonids were terrestrial. Instead, the postcranium of T. wilsoni indicates that it was similar to that of all other plesiadapiforms for which skeletons have been recovered in having distinct specializations consistent with arboreality.