A new study led by Christopher C Gilbert at the Hunter College has discovered an ape fossil from India. Analysis of this fossil reveals that it is more than 13 million years old, and scientists believe that it is the oldest known ancestor of modern-day gibbon.
The discovery made by Gilbert and his team is considered very crucial, since it helps scientists understand when the ancestors of gibbon started migrating from Africa to Asia.
Discovery of New Ape Species
During the study, scientists discovered a complete lower molar, and they revealed that these remains belong to a previously unknown genus and species known as Kapi ramnagarensis. Interestingly, this is also the first new fossilized ape species discovered in the famous fossil site of Ramnagar, India.
The discovery of this new fossil was literally accidental. Gilbert along with his team members Chris Campisano, Biren Patel, Rajeev Patnaik, and Premjit Singh was climbing a hill. When they paused for a short rest, Gilbert found something shining on the surface. As they dug the area, researchers were surprised to see an ape molar.
Even though Gilbert and his team came to know that it was a primate tooth, they were pretty sure that it was not the tooth of any of the known primates which dwelled in the area. It should be also noted that no other gibbon fossils were unearthed in the region, and as a result, scientists decided to do thorough homework to figure out what exactly it was.
Years Long Study and Final Assumption
It was in 2015 that scientists discovered the molar of this ape. Scientists revealed that it took more than five years of study, analysis, and comparison to conclude that this fossil belongs to a new ape species. In-depth research also helped scientists to accurately determine this creature's rank in the family tree of apes.
"Today, gibbons and orangutans can both be found in Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia, and the oldest fossil apes are from Africa. Knowing that gibbon and orangutan ancestors existed in the same spot together in northern India 13 million years ago, and may have a similar migration history across Asia, is pretty cool," said Chris Campisano, a researcher who took part in this study in a recent statement.
The Complexity of Migration
A few weeks back, another similar discovery that happened in Peru had shed light on the way in which monkeys migrated from Africa to South America. A team of researchers found the teeth of a primate in Peru, and surprisingly, it belonged to an extinct family of primates thought to have lived only in Africa.
Researchers who took part in the study suggested that these monkeys might have reached South America by floating across the Atlantic Ocean on mats of vegetation and earth.