New Fossil Find Challenges Assumptions About Evolution
The ancestral "mother" of all great apes - and yes, that means us humans too - may have been a creature smaller than previously assumed, researchers say.
All living great apes weigh in at between around 65 to 395 pounds. This covers everything from chimpanzees to humans and on up to massive gorillas, so researchers always assumed the original ancestor ape should have been at least a bit hefty.
However, a new fossil - a partial skeleton of a primitive ape believed to be 11.6 million years old - despite having traits linking it to humans and all living apes, may have weighed no more than 10 pounds.
Writing in the journal Science, researchers suggest the new primate, Pliobates cataloniae, existed before the evolutionary divergence of great apes - chimps, orangutans, humans and gorillas - and the so-called lesser apes, much smaller species like gibbons and siamangs.
According to the researchers, that would put P. cataloniae, or at least one of its own ancestors, at the very route of the family trees of all apes.
The fossil is named after a region in Spain called Catalonia, where it was discovered.