The newest discovery in paleontology offers new perspectives about the humankind and its past throughout the years of evolution. On Wednesday, scientists announced the discovery of a fossil skull in Asia that belongs to an extinct ape.
The skull’s size can easily be compared to the dimensions of a lemon and scientists state that it most likely belonged to an infant ape which was also nicknamed Alesi. It is suggested that Alesi inhabited a Kenyan forest approximately thirteen million years ago.
This kind of discovery allows scientist to get a better look at the oldest ancestors of people and all modern apes; the skull may offer the chance to get answers about the origin of the lineage that led to modern apes, like chimpanzees, orangutans or gorillas and eventually humans.
Moreover, it offers the chance to study multiple characteristics such as inner-ear structure, brain cavity and the un-erupted adult teeth that are located beneath the roots of baby teeth.
The fossil skull had a small snout and scientists compare it to the current gibbon, which can be found in Asia. On the other side, the balance organ inside the inner ear is different from gibbons and suggests that the Alesi’s species used to move through trees with more caution and also had shorter members that the gibbons.
This discovery is considered extremely rare because fossils that have more than ten million years hold a lot of answers to long-standing questions about the evolution of the ape species. In most cases, archaeologists and paleontologists discover only scrappy teeth or jaw bones, not an entire skull.
The etymology of the name Alesi derives from the word “ales”, which means “ancestors”. The name belonged to a new species called Nyanzapithecus alesi that was closely related to common ancestors of people and modern apes.