Newly discovered fossil might end up changing our perception of ape evolution

Pliobates catalonia, a newly discovered primate species, might end up changing our perception of ape evolution completely; at least a study published in the journal Science this Thursday is suggesting so.

The newly identified ape species has been positioned right at the ape family tree’s base. The researchers responsible for discovering this new primate are saying that Pliobates catalonia is a direct descendant of the common ancestor of every single ape species identified to date (these include great apes like the humans, chimps, gorillas as well as the comparatively lesser known species like gibbons).

For those who don’t know: gibbons have significant similarities with monkeys; the only prominent difference between the two specie is that unlike the monkeys, gibbons don’t have tails. Gibbons are much smaller than the great apes and don’t have much resemblance with humans.

The researchers are saying that the newly discovered ape species called Pliobates catalonia used to live around 11.6 million years back. According to them, they used to have bodies as big as that of gibbons. However, in spite of having a gibbon-sized body and living even after the supposed divergence of branches of the ape family tree, Pliobates catalonia appeared to possess features that make it look like an ancestor of the great apes.

If we take into consideration the previous molecular analyses of human evolution, it has to be said that this new fossil discovered by the scientists came along too late for being tagged as a common predecessor of every living primate.

Those analyses suggest that the split took place 15 to 20 million years back. Researchers are saying that the fossil studied by them might be of an ape species that is possibly a direct descendant of the last common ape group living on our planet prior to the split.

If this speculation of the researchers turns out to be true, we might witness a complete revamp of the idea which suggests that the common ancestor of the humans used to be like a great ape. It might turn out that all apes including us might have actually descended from a gibbon-like species. However, there’s also a possibility that the fossil is actually of a gibbon ancestor and has great-ape-like features just because of evolutionary coincidences.


About the author

Erin Roberts

Erin is a gifted storyteller with a background in English Literature. He is in charge of long-form articles, interviews, and special reports at The Hoops News. Her ability to bring depth and context to stories sets her apart. Erin is also an avid reader and enjoys exploring new cuisines.