Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ape Fossil Changes Timeline of Human Evolution

I'm not going to touch this one !

Our lineage might have diverged from our monkey relatives later than previously thought, a new primate fossil from Saudi Arabia
now suggests.

One key step in understanding human evolution is pinning doing (DOWN?) when the hominoid lineage, which includes apes and humans, diverged from the Old World monkeys.

"If we can refine our understanding of the date of split between hominoids and Old World monkeys
and eventually get a better idea of what was happening with the ecology, climate and composition of co-occurring mammals at that time, we will learn about the conditions driving our own ultimate origins," researcher William Sanders, a paleontologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, told LiveScience.

Genetic analysis of humans, monkeys and other primates had placed the split at roughly 35 million to 30 million years ago, during the early Oligocene period. However, the fossil record from the mid-to-late Oligocene, some 30 million to 23 million years ago, had previously provided little evidence supporting the timing of the divergence.

Primate skull

Now researchers have revealed a partial skull roughly 29 million to 28 million years old of a previously unknown species of medium-sized primate that might have come on the scene just before our lineage split away from Old World monkeys.

When alive the primate likely resembled a New World monkey (a group that includes marmosets, tamarins, capuchins and other monkeys), sporting a tail and moving on all fours.

"It's not a monkey, it's not an ape — it's this intermediate, a precursor fossil for all apes and Old World monkeys," said researcher Iyad Zalmout, a paleontologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

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