13-million-year-old Primate Skull Unveils The Origins of African Human & Apes
Scientists found the evidence how apes became human from a 13-million-year old skull of a primate. The skull belongs to a non-acrobatic baby gibbon and it was from Miocene epoch - the time when apes were beginning to expand their range into Eurasia. However, the creature is not related to humans or apes but researchers the structure of the cranium has some similarities with extinct human ancestors.
An international research team from Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University, and De Anza College in California found the skull from Kenya. Scientists named this specimen as “Alesi”, it has a tiny nose and mouth related to its head size. In the journal of Nature, researchers explained humans are most closely related to the apes, among living primates.
Now researchers are trying to find out how common ancestor of living apes and humans look like in earlier these days. Previous studies suggest common ancestors used to live in Africa six to seven million years ago with chimpanzees but, the evolution story before 10 million years ago is still unknown. In 2014, the skull was first spotted by Kenyan fossil hunter John Ekus at the west of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.
Most of the informative parts of the skull were hidden inside the fossil. According to Mail Online, the fossil is the skull of an infant and it comes from a very critical time period in the African past. By using the 3D X-ray imaging technique scientists revealed the brain cavity, the inner ears and the unerupted adult teeth with their daily record of growth lines.
Radiologist Paul Tafforeau from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility said,“The quality of our images was so good that we could establish from the teeth that the infant was about 1 year and 4 months old when it died”. He also added that the size of the skull is not more than the size of a lemon.
Researchers found that the specimen belonged to a new species, Nyanzapithecus alesi by analyzing the unerupted adult teeth inside the infant ape's skull. Most interestingly, the cranium has fully developed bony ear tubes that indicate a link with living apes.