Discovery Of Ancient Skull Sheds Light On Ape Ancestry

Discovery Of Ancient Skull Sheds Light On Ape Ancestry

The researchers used X-ray imaging to reconstruct the teeth, which indicated that the ape belonged to a new species.

The new fossil, nicknamed Alesi, was discovered in the Napudet area near Lake Turkana, where numerous remains of ancient human ancestors have been found.

"The living apes are found all across Africa and Asia - chimps and gorillas in Africa, orangutans and gibbons in Asia - and there are many fossil apes found on both continents, and Europe as well", study co-author Christopher Gilbert, a paleoanthropologist at Hunter College in NY, told Live Science.

"Until now, relevant fossils are scarce and incomplete which is why this new discovery is extremely important for furthering our knowledge", he said.

The discovery in Kenya of a remarkably complete fossil ape skull reveals what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like.

The research appears in the journal Nature. Our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived in Africa 6 to 7 million years ago, and many spectacular fossil finds have revealed how humans evolved since then. Gibbon ancestors are thought to have diverged from precursors of living great apes and humans between 20 million and 15 million years ago, Alba says. The fossil record for the Miocene epoch in which it's expected to have lived is mostly comprised of teeth and jawbone fragments. It has therefore been hard to find answers to two fundamental questions: Did the common ancestor of living apes and humans originate in Africa, and what did these early ancestors look like? Again though, the fully developed bony inner ear tubes in KNM-NP 59050 - a trait also seen in today's apes - provided the critical link.

That has now changed with the remarkable discovery of a 13-million-year-old infant ape skull in the Napudet deposits of northern Kenya.

"A nearby volcano buried the forest where the baby ape lived, preserving the fossil and countless trees", Feibel says. The fossil provides the most detailed look to date at a member of a line of African primates that are now candidates for central players in the evolution of present-day apes and humans.

"The quality of our images was so good that we could establish from the teeth that the infant was about one year and four months old when it died", said Tafforeau.

Comparisons with other African ape fossils indicate that the infant's skull belongs to a new species that the researchers named Nyanzapithecus alesi.

The name Alesi derives from "ales", meaning "ancestor" in the local Turkana language.

"Until now, all Nyanzapithecus species were only known from teeth and it was an open question whether or not they were even apes", says John Fleagle of Stony Brook University.

At first, researchers suspected Alesi had been a baby gibbon because of the small snout.

"This gives the initial impression that it is an extinct gibbon", says Chris Gilbert of Hunter College.

Analysis of this tiny skull shows that this ancient species was more monkey-like than it was ape-like. In gibbons, a part of the inner ear called the semicircular canals, which coordinates balance, is large relative to body size.

"Gibbons are well known for their fast and acrobatic behavior in trees", said Fred Spoor, Professor of Evolutionary Anatomy at University College London.

Scientists estimate the Miocene period, which spanned from 5 million to 25 million years ago, produced more than 40 different species of hominoids - a term for a superfamily of primates that includes apes, humans and related ancestral species.

Despite the age and unprecedented completeness of the new ape skull, no reported tooth or skull features clearly place N. alesi close to the origins of living apes and humans, says paleoanthropologist David Begun of the University of Toronto.

The study was sponsored by The Leakey Foundation and trustee Gordon Getty, the Foothill-De Anza Foundation, the Fulbright Scholars Program, the National Geographic Society, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility and the Max Planck Society.

Related news:

Hot News

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Sarah Harding 'being monitored' by Doctors following last night's show
Aug 11, 2017 - 00:10
At the time a source had told MailOnline: 'Cheryl hasn't unfollowed Sarah recently, it was over a year ago. Sarah breaks down in the Diary Room, saying she "doesn't know who to trust".

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Lassa Fever : 3 LUTH workers test positive
Aug 11, 2017 - 00:04
Kawuwa told newsmen in Damaturu that seven people were initially held, but three had been discharged after clinical analysis. A post-mortem examination had been conducted before her Lassa Fever status was eventually suspected and confirmed.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top You Can Play A Free Demo Of 'NBA Live 18' Starting Friday
Aug 11, 2017 - 00:00
The " NBA Live " series has gone through a tumultuous last seven years with cancellations outnumbering actual products released. For instance, the cover athlete for the game has now been revealed- it will be James Harden of the Houston Rockets .

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top DfT reveals victor of West Midlands rail franchise
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:45
When I was re-elected this year, I promised the people of Watford that London Midland would go and so this a real victory.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Battlefield 1 now free to download from Origin and EA Access
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:41
Battlefield 1 originally released on PS4, Xbox One , and PC back in October past year to a critical acclaim. It's an announcement that many probably saw coming, but it's a big addition to the services nonetheless.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Biological malware: Scientists use DNA to hack a computer
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:36
But beyond the consumer craze for DNA testing, there is now an interesting example of how DNA is being used in security research. However, this is the first time that malware has been stored in DNA and used to infect a computer system.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Netflix retains Disney rights in LATAM, Spain
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:30
Iger told A.P. that there are not any plants to sell either the Disney or ESPN channels directly to consumers through the app. Disney said it would pay US$1.58bil (RM6.78bil) to acquire an additional 42% stake in BAMTech to bring its ownership to 75%.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Bill O'Reilly to Appear on CNN for the First Time
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:21
Smerconish's show airs on Saturday mornings. "North Korea has been a pain in the butt for decades", O'Reilly said . O'Reilly was sacked from Fox News in April after 20 years following allegations of sexual harassment.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Apple Will Soar to $1 Trillion Market Cap, RBC Says
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:13
Shareholders of record on Monday, August 14th will be issued a $0.63 dividend. 164,848 were reported by Community Tru & Inv. Following the transaction, the insider now directly owns 3,414 shares in the company, valued at approximately $528,145.80.

Piedmont Office Realty Trust Inc
Aug 10, 2017 - 23:03
The Lasalle Investment Management Securities Llc holds 1.34M shares with $190.63M value, up from 639,632 last quarter. On July 24 the company was upgraded from "Underweight" to "Equal-Weight" in an announcement from Morgan Stanley.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Pink Releases Catchy New Single 'What About Us'
Aug 10, 2017 - 22:48
Pink released "What About Us", the first single from her forthcoming album, Beautiful Trauma . On Instagram, Pink said she was "insanely proud" of the song and album.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Standoff with gunman on I-75 in Monroe County ends peacefully
Aug 10, 2017 - 22:43
State police say that during the chase the man used Facebook live to make threats toward officers and was believed to have a gun. Authorities pursued the driver and learned he was livestreaming to Facebook, making threats against police officers and himself.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Guam Map: Where it Is Relative to North Korea
Aug 10, 2017 - 22:35
A majority of the major sectors have moved lower on the day, although most are showing relatively modest moves to the downside. THE QUOTE: While the tough talk about the potential for nuclear war is scary, investors have heard it many times before.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Tesla Model 3 in new Top Gear magazine, out now!
Aug 10, 2017 - 22:30
As Musk announced Model 3 and a bond issue raising $1.5 billion , many market analysts were skeptical about the bond issue. Until now, Tesla's Fremont, Calif., plant has been turning out fewer than 100,000 sedans and crossovers a year.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Uber's Graves Stepping Down From Leadership Role
Aug 10, 2017 - 22:28
Uber's head of global operations is the latest executive to step down at the troubled ride-hailing company. Graves was briefly Uber's chief executive in its early days before handing the reins to Mr.