Science News

Scientists Discover Skull Fragment Of Oldest Baboon

Baboon Skull

A two-million-year-old skull fragment found in South Africa belongs to the earliest baboon ever discovered, a new study reports.

The fossil was unearthed at a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Malapa, a cave where specimens of Australopithecus sediba, an early ancestor of humans, were found in 2010, reports The New York Times.

The baboon skull is very similar to those of modern day baboons, according to Christopher C. Gilbert, study author and anthropologist at Hunter College in New York. “You’d be hard pressed to figure out the difference,” he said.

You’d be hard pressed to figure out the difference between this fossil and a skull of a living baboon.

According to Yahoo News, the baboon skull – named UW 88-886 – is a member of Papio angusticeps, a species closely related to the modern baboon species Papio hamadrayas.

The Papio angusticpes skull was the first nonhominin primate dug up at the site. This is not an unusual find, as other fossil locations have shown that “baboons are known to have co-existed with hominins,” said Gilbert.

Baboons are known to have co-existed with hominins at several fossil localities in East Africa and South Africa, and they are sometimes even used as comparative models in human evolution.

Studies suggest that baboons evolved from their closest relatives around 1.8 million to 2.2 million years ago, Gilbert said. However, most fossil specimens from that time are too primitive or too fragmentary to confirm whether they are the ancestors of Papio hamadrayas.

Modern baboons can be found living throughout the Arabian Peninsula and sub-Saharan Africa.

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