A new species of apes living in Africa 22 million years ago "is helping fill a 6-million-year gap," says a new study.
Identified by their fossilized teeth, the new species, known as Alophia metios was found in the badlands of northwest Kenya. The teeth could provide clues as to how their diets helped shape the course of evolution.
"For a group as successful as the monkeys of Africa and Asia, scientists seem to have already understood their evolutionary history," he said in a statement to the author of the study, John Kappelman.
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Kappelman continued: Important for the documentation of the earliest occurrence of monkeys, the next six million years of existence of the group are a big one Gap. This new monkey clearly shows what happened during the later evolution of the group.
The teeth lack molar-dummies known as "lophs." Which helped the scientists call the monkey Alophia meaning "without lophs."
The teeth are so old that they were initially confused with a pig, Wake Forest University Professor Ellen Miller said in the statement. "But because of other dental peculiarities, we can convince them that it really is a monkey."
Previously discovered teeth were dated between 19 and 25 million years ago from Uganda and Tanzania. Monkeys arose for the first time when Africa and Arabia were on an island continent some 24 million years ago.
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In the analysis of fossilized teeth, the researchers believed that they ate hard fruits, seeds and nuts in a part of the world that was full of lush vegetation and streams. "These old monkeys lived the good life," said Benson Kyongo, a collection manager of the National Museums of Kenya.
The fossilized teeth can also shed light on whether monkeys compete with other continental animals, such as pigs, lions, or rhinos, to find food that they may have developed.
"Testing between these hypotheses is to collect more fossils," said Kappelman. "Determining exactly when the Eurasian fauna has arrived in Afro-Arabia remains one of the most important questions in paleontology, and Western Turkana is one of the few places we know to find that answer."
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The study was published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.