Magazine article USA TODAY

Bones of Ground-Based Ape Unearthed

Magazine article USA TODAY

Bones of Ground-Based Ape Unearthed

Article excerpt

ANTHROPOLOGY

The earliest fossil of a groundbased Base ape has been identified by University of Illinois at Chicago researcher Jay Kelley and colleagues at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Yale University, and Northern Arizona University. They have classified the fossil ape as a new hominoid genus from the middle Miocene epoch and named it Equatorius. Recognition of the new genus was prompted by the discovery of the partial skeleton of a fossil ape by a team led by Yale's Andrew Hill and Northeastern's Steve Ward. The skeleton is from an approximately 15,000,000-year-old site at Kipsaramon, in the Tugen Hills of western Kenya.

The limb anatomy of Equatorius indicates that members of this genus were at least partly adapted for life on the ground. Moreover, facial and jaw features were a key in the characterization of the new genus. "Recognizing the distinctiveness of Equatorius provides a more accurate framework to assess the wealth of new fossil material from the middle Miocene that is being uncovered," explains Kelley, the research team's expert on oral anatomy.

Prior to this discovery, the species now included in Equatorius had been placed in another hominoid genus from the African middle Miocene, Kenyapithecus. There had been conflicting opinions about the relationship of Kenyapithecus to great apes and humans. Some evidence from the paleontological record showed a close relationship, even suggesting that it was an early member of this group of species with a common evolutionary ancestry. …

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