Scientists discovered an extremely rare primate skull which might help offer a new look at both the living apes and human evolutionary process over the last millions of years.
This unique fossil was dated as being some 13 million years old and to have belonged to an infant ape. The cranium is also among the most intact fossils of this type found until now.
Extremely Rare Primate Skull Dates Back to the Miocene
The infant ape skull fossil was discovered back in 2014, in northern Kenya. It was detected on the last day of excavations on a site on the shores of Lake Turkana. The best-known layers in this area also revealed the now famous Turkana boy skeleton back in 1984. However, the sediment layers that housed this new find are seemingly even older than this famous skeleton.
According to estimates, the ape skull dates back to some 13 million years ago, the Miocene period. This extremely rare fossil was also determined to belong to a new species. Since then, this has been named Nyanzapithecus alesi. It a very important find as it is one of the most intact skulls of an extinct ape found until now. Also, it provides new data about a period which is still rather unexplored due to its poor fossil records.
Many new species are believed to have appeared during that period. This includes even the common ancestors of both present day apes and humans as well.
Sensitive 3D X-ray tests led to the conclusion that this extremely rare primate skull might have belonged to an infant ape. One that could have been about one year and four months old. The volcanic ash found around it suggests that the primate might have died during a volcanic eruption, but this cannot be known for sure.
“What the discovery of Alesi shows, is that this group was close to the origin of living apes and humans and that this origin was African,” stated Isaiah Nengo.
He is the study’s lead author and an anthropology professor at De Anza College in California and Stony Brook University in New York.
Study findings were released in the journal Nature.
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