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Cranium and mandible of a giant lemur

Natural History Museum


Megaladapis edwardsi, Ampoza, southwest Madagascar. Fossils

Now extinct, the koala lemur was probably the size of a gorilla. It is one of the many species of this now rare primate that originated in Africa and arrived in Madagascar about 60 million years ago. Megaladapis had long forelimbs, relatively short hind limbs, large feet and a large skull in proportion to the rest of its body. The physical reconstruction of this genus suggests that it was relatively large-bodied with strong grasping hands. Comparative studies of the dimensions of the semicircular canal system of the skull inner ear (which controls neural inputs for the neck and eye during locomotion) further indicate that it moved more slowly than living orang-utans, making it an easy prey. This may have contributed to its extinction.

From an evolutionary perspective, the koala lemur, unlike the smaller species, proved unfit for survival. This is a key concept for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Evolutionary theories have been further probed by those currently studying genetics and genomics. Go to Medicine Now and see if you can find a printout of the human genome as well as Robin Blackledge’s artwork inspired by DNA in the form of a barber’s pole. 

Natural History Museum, London 

M13898 (cranium) and M13899 (mandible) of Megaladapis edwardsi, BM(NH) 1939.1223 (skull of the ring-tailed lemur)

This will be on display at Wellcome Collection between 1 June - 10 July 2011

See this object in its context at the Natural History Museum (on display 20 January - 6 March  2011)
See this object in its context at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (on display 8 March - 17 April 2011)
See this object in its context at the Science Museum (on display 19 April - 29 May 2011)
See this object in its context at the Horniman Museum (on display 12 July - 21 August 2011)

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