Feeds

Scientists unearth 'missing link' jawbone

Possible common ancestor of great apes and humans?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Scientists are postulating that a 10 million year old jawbone unearthed in Kenya's northern Nakali region may belong to the so-called evolutionary "missing link" - the common ancestor of African great apes and humans.

The fragment, along with 11 teeth, was discovered in 2005 in volcanic mud flow deposits by Japanese and Kenyan researchers. They have dubbed the new species - described by Reuters as "somewhere between the size of a female gorilla and a female orang-utan" - as Nakalipithecus nakayamai.

Frederick Manthi, senior research scientist at the National Museums of Kenya, declared at a press conference: "Based on this particular discovery, we can comfortably say we are approaching the point at which we can pin down the so-called missing link."

Yutaka Kunimatsu at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute told the news agency: "It could be positioned before the split between gorillas, chimps and humans."

If Nakalipithecus nakayamai is indeed the common ancestor of great apes and humans, the discovery supports the theory that it, and subsequently the great apes and humans, evolved entirely in Africa. An alternative theory - based on the fact that "so little fossil evidence in Africa dating between seven to 13 million years ago" - suggests accordingly that "the last common ancestor left Africa for Europe and Asia, and then returned later".

Kunimatsu elaborated: "Now, we have a good candidate in Africa. We do not need to think the common ancestor came back from Eurasia to Africa. I think it is more likely the common ancestor evolved from the apes in the Miocene in Africa."

However, the team warned further evidence was required before a definitive explanation could be reached. Manthi admitted: "We have to find more fossils from a cross-section of sites to sustain that particular theory."

Kunimatsu added: "We only have some jaw fragments and some teeth... but we hope to find other body parts in our future research. We plan to go back next year. We will try to find bones below the neck to tell us how the animal moved."

What the researchers have deduced, though, is Nakalipithecus nakayamai's diet. Kunimatsu concluded: "The teeth were covered in thick enamel and the caps were low and voluminous, suggesting that the diet of this ape consisted of a considerable amount of hard objects, like nuts or seeds, and fruit."

The team's findings are published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.