top of page

The Skull of the Ancient Primate with Chris Kirk

Who is the oldest primate, and is it our great-great-great grandfather? In this episode, we learn that our earliest ancestors didn't look like monkeys or apes. They were much, much tinier!


NGSS Standards:



Crosscutting Concepts:

Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

0208 - The Skull of the Ancient Primate - Transcri
Download PDF • 117KB

Here, anthropologist Chris Kirk poses with Rooneyia, a primate that lived 37 million years ago. Thanks to Chris' hairless head, you can get a good comparison of how much bigger a human skull is!

Chris Kirk with Rooneyia

Here Chris holds Rooneyia in his hand. It's so light and fragile.

Rooneyia in the palm of Chris' hand

And take a look at Mahgarita. It was named for a paleontologist named Margaret, who helped discover it.

Mahgarita in Chris' palm

These fossils were discovered in Far West Texas, but you don't have to travel that far to start fossil hunting. You could try a dry and rocky creek bed. Get a guidebook at your local library to help you identify what's a fossil and what's a funny looking rock. It's helpful to learn about different types of rocks, and which ones are more likely to contain fossils. For example, you won't find any fossils in rocks formed by volcanos, but limestone is made up of fossilized organisms.

Curious to learn more? Here are some links to get you started:

Poke around to find a fossil hunting group, or a friendly fossil hunter who might be willing to mentor you! Having a guide get you started is your best bet.

You can listen to Lindsay's first fossil hunting experience, in this story she produced for Studio360. She found a shark tooth and a piece of toilet in a dry river bed! She's sure you can do better.

It's amazing what you might be able to find, with some practice. Don't expect to find a dinosaur your first time out, though. It takes time and experience to train your eye to look for fossils.

Slide through the slideshow below to see more of the treasures in UT's Vertebrate Paleontology Lab.

We have educational resources to go along with this episode on our Patreon. Check it out!

Are you an educator or homeschooling parent? We want to know how you use Tumble! Email us at We'll send you a sample of our educational materials in exchange for your feedback.

bottom of page