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Fossil discovery could be the last common ancestor to all apes

Fossil discovery could be the last common ancestor to all apes

New Scientist

Image: Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP)

Did great apes start small? Our best guess for the size of the last common ancestor of hominoids – humans, great apes and gibbons – just got a lot daintier, thanks to a fossil primate unearthed at a landfill site in Spain.

This ancestor would have lived around 14 million years ago, when lesser apes, the gibbons, split from the great ape lineage.

An earlier hominoid, Proconsul, lived in East Africa about 23 million years ago and had a body mass of up to 50 kilograms – about the same as a chimpanzee, and not much smaller than a human.

Proconsul is thought to be typical of early hominoids, so the consensus was that today’s great apes would have evolved from creatures that were about the same size. That would also mean that gibbons, the only living small-bodied hominoids, must have evolved from a large-bodied ancestor. Read more on newscientist.com…