Skip to comments.Extremely rare 13 million-year-old primate skull found
Posted on 08/09/2017 1:54:20 PM PDT by Red Badger
* This may be the most intact primate fossil skull ever discovered. * The fossil comes from a little-known period of primate evolutionary history.
Source: Fred Spoor This is Alesi, the skull of the new extinct ape species Nyanzapithecus alesi (KNM-NP 59050).
A group of scientists have found what may be the most intact fossilized primate skull ever discovered, and the find could shed light on the common evolutionary heritage shared by apes and humans.
The lemon-sized skull was discovered in Kenya by an international team of researchers, and was dated to the middle of the Miocene era, a little-understood time when many species of ape arose in Africa, including common ancestors of both modern apes and humans.
This skull could give scientists insights into what those common ancestors looked like.
The team reported its findings Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The fossil, belonging to the newly named species Nyanzapithecus alesi, bears some resemblance to those of modern-day gibbons, and possesses features that would only be found in apes, such as ape-like teeth. However, certain features distinguish it from modern gibbons, suggesting it was a very different type of animal.
"Gibbons are well known for their fast and acrobatic behavior in trees," said Fred Spoor of University College London and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in a press release. "But the inner ears of Alesi show that it would have had a much more cautious way of moving around."
The team used an extremely sensitive form of 3-D X-ray to peek inside the skull, revealing information that led them to conclude the skull belonged to an infant one to four months old when it died. Volcanic ash found around the fossil suggests it may have died during an eruption, but researchers cannot be sure.
Scientists estimate the Miocene period, which spanned from 25 million to 5 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.
It is extremely uncommon to find fossil primate skulls, especially those belonging to apes.
"Importantly, the African fossil record lacks any reasonably complete hominoid crania between 17 and 7 million years ago, and no cranial specimens are known at all from between 14 and 10 million years, greatly hampering the analysis of hominoid evolution," the researchers said in their study.
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.
Scientists will need to study the skull further, but can already draw a few conclusions.
"What the discovery of Alesi shows," said lead author Isaiah Nengo, a professor of anthropology at De Anza College in California and Stony Brook University in New York, "is that this group was close to the origin of living apes and humans and that this origin was African."
Robert FerrisScience Reporter
Huge eye sockets.
“Is this the missing link? Well, that’s a Gibbon.”
[insert Ruth Bader Ginsberg joke here]
Some scientists think that the brain developed as an adjunct to the eyes. They are very closely connected/related.
My, but what big eyes you have, Alesi!
Insert “it’s aliens” photo here... :-)
It was her prom date................
Yes its a martyfledman sapien
It’s a gibbon skull.
Most likely a night predator..........
could be a Tasier............
It’s a friggin’ monkey head.
Send a copy of the report to all of the apes who forgot to get on the evolutionary train and therefor stayed apes.
OOA is a myth.
He was in my Kindergarten class.
We all had one!.................
You mean to say that they found Maxine Waters’ long lost cousin?!?!?!?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.