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Current Affairs

Oldest monkey fossils outside Africa

Date: 13 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Scientists have found fossil samples belonging to a monkey species, in a lignite mine in China, that lived about 6.4 million years ago.

 

Background

The discovery indicates that monkeys existed in Asia at the same time as apes, and are probably the ancestors of some of the modern primates in the area.

 

Details

  • According to the researchers, the samples collected from a mine in south-eastern Yunan Province in China are some of the very oldest fossils of monkeys outside of Africa.

  • It is close to or actually the ancestor of many of the living monkeys of East Asia. One of the interesting things from the perspective of paleontology is that this monkey occurs at the same place and same time as ancient apes in Asia

  • The study noted that the unearthed jaw and thigh bones were found in close proximity, and are probably of the same individual.

  • The scientists also uncovered a left calcaneus — heel bone — that belongs to the same species of monkey, Mesopithecus pentelicus.

  • The significance of the calcaneus is that it reveals the monkey was well adapted for moving nimbly and powerfully both on the ground and in the trees.

  • The scientists believe these monkeys were probably able to navigate in the trees and on land, and their teeth indicated they could eat a wide variety of plants, fruits and flowers, while apes eat mostly fruit.

  • The monkeys were successful since they could eat low-quality food high in cellulose and obtain sufficient energy by fermenting the food and using the subsequent fatty acids then available from the bacteria.

  • Based on the evidence obtained so far, the researchers believe these monkeys did not have to live near bodies of water, and could survive periods of dramatic climatic change.

  • While there is evidence that the species began in Eastern Europe and moved out from there, the team noted that the exact patterns are unknown.