THE discovery of a 11.6 million year old fossil in Spain on Thursday October 29 is giving scientists more information on how apes have evolved.
The fossil is a partial skull and skeleton and is well preserved. Scientists announced that the animal was a female ape whose habitat was a warm and wet woodland area which was also home to many animals including sabre-toothed predators and relatives of elephants and rhinos.
They named the ape Pliobates and said that it “exhibits a unique combination of modern ape-like features with other, more primitive ones.”
David Alba of the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology said, “We can imagine a small ape, like the smallest living gibbons, with a gibbon-like appearance regarding the cranium but with different body proportions: less elongated arms and hands.”
Alba said that its movements would have been different to today´s gibbons in that it was slower and less carefree when climbing.
The find includes 70 bones or fragments of bones including the skull. The skull has a similar shape to the modern gibbon.
“Pliobates suggests that small-bodied apes played a much more important role in the origin of extant apes than previously recognized, and that their last common ancestor, in several respects, skull shape and body size, might have been more gibbon-like than previously thought,” added Alba.