Scientists have just announced a remarkable discovery of a new genus and species of ape which would have walked this planet, they estimate, around 11.6 million years ago. This puts the animal on Earth before hominids split from the gibbons. They are calling this ancient primate “Pilobates cataloniae,” and they believe it could be the next missing link—the final common ancestor—between the hominids and the gibbons before the definitive evolutionary split.
“This fossil discovery is providing a missing chapter to the beginning of ape and human history,” explains Sergio Almécija, who is an assistant professor of anthropology in the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. He continues, “We used to think that small apes evolved from larger-bodied apes, but this new species tells us that small and large apes may have co-existed since hominoids originated.”
He also notes, “These remains clearly belong to an ape, but they are so small. Then we realized, maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. Maybe some early ape ancestors were smaller than we thought.” Lead author David Alba—with the Institut Catala de Paleontologia Miguel Crusafont (ICP)—comments, “Pliobates indicates that small-bodied taxa might have played a much more significant role than previously thought in the evolution of modern hominoids (great apes), and that their last common ancestor might have been, in some respects, such as skull shape and body size, more gibbon-like than previously thought.”
Kemo D. 7