(ORDO NEWS) — In the southwest of China, the oldest remains of gibbons have been discovered. According to scientists, this find will help fill an evolutionary gap in the history of great apes.
Fossils of gibbons are extremely rare and most of them are single teeth and jaw fragments. All of them are found in the south of China or in Southeast Asia and date back no more than two million years ago.
Genetic studies show that gibbons diverged from the line of great apes leading to orangutans, chimpanzees and humans, about 17-22 million years ago.
So there is a gap of 10 million years in their fossil record that needs to be filled.
A new discovery by Chinese and American scientists fulfills this task, supplementing the history of gibbons with new data – according to scientists, the discovered remains are 7-8 million years old.
The fossil was discovered in Yunnan province in southwest China. It belongs to a baby primate named Yuanmoupithecus xiaoyuan, less than two years old at the time of death.
Scientists from the Kunming Institute of Zoology, the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology, Wuhan (China) and New York Universities (USA) published an article about the analysis of the find in the Journal of Human Evolution.
The researchers found that yuanmoupitec was similar in size to modern gibbons and weighed about six kilograms.
The teeth and lower part of the muzzle were also very similar to modern members of this family.
However, some of its features were more primitive than those of modern gibbons, which allows us to conclude that Yuanmoupithecus xiaoyuan was the ancestor of all living species of these primates.
But earlier scientists assumed that this species belongs to the Miocene proconsulids or dendropithecus native to East Africa.
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