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Monday, November 2, 2015

New 11.6 mya primate fossil may change ideas about ape evolution

An ancient primate’s partial skeleton, discovered in northeastern Spain, 
is poised to downsize ape evolution in a big way. 

This 11.6-million-year-old fossil find, nicknamed Laia by its discoverers, 
represents the first evidence that present-day African apes descended from 
a relatively small, somewhat gibbonlike common ancestor — not large-bodied 
African primates as previously thought, scientists report in the Oct. 30 
Science. If that scenario holds up, Laia’s discovery also shows for the 
first time that ancient, small-bodied apes moved from Africa to Europe, 
says a team led by paleontologist David Alba of Catalan Institute of 
Paleontology in Barcelona. 

Based on analysis of more than 300 teeth, skull and lower-body measurements, 
Alba and colleagues assign the partial skeleton to a new genus and species 
of ancient ape, Pliobates cataloniae. 
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