Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Remains of 20 million-year old ape unearthed in Uganda

Researchers working in Uganda say they have unearthed the well-preserved fossil skull of an ancient primate. The 20 million-year-old specimen comes from the site of an extinct volcano in Uganda's north-east Karamoja region.
The skull belonged to a male Ugandapithecus major, an ancestor of today's great apes.

The expedition was led by Pickford, of the Coll├Ęge de France in Paris, and professor Brigitte Senut of the Paris-based National Museum of Natural History, reported Uganda's New Vision website.

Preliminary studies of the fossil showed that the tree-climbing herbivore, roughly 10 years old when it died, had a head the size of a chimpanzee's, but a brain the size of a baboon's, Pickford said.

The team said their discovery at Napak XV is a ‘sub-complete’ Hominidae skull and it is believed to be aged between 19 and 20 million years.

The term Hominidae refers to a scienticic family classification which included chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans which are closely related to humans.

The discovery will enhance understanding of the development of apes and humans, the scientists said.

Ugandan Tourism Minister Agnes Okiror said he believed the latest discovery would help put his country "on the map." Last year, researchers in Chad unearthed a 6—million—year—old hominid fossil, which was considered one of the great modern discoveries in the field, as it helped clarify the evolutionary chart.

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