Earliest Baboon Found in South Africa

image_3154_2-Papio-angusticepsA two-million-year-old partial skull of the extinct baboon Papio angusticeps has been unearthed at Malapa, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, by a team of scientists headed by Dr Christopher Gilbert of Hunter College of the City University of New York. The specimen, according to the team, represents both the earliest baboon ever found and the only non-hominin primate yet recovered from Malapa.

Despite their evolutionary success, modern baboon origins in the fossil record have not well-understood or agreed upon. “According to molecular clock studies, baboons are estimated to have diverged from their closest relatives by 1.8 to 2.2 million years ago; however, until now, most fossil specimens known within this time range have been either too fragmentary to be definitive or too primitive to be confirmed as members of the living species Papio hamadryas,” said Dr Gilbert, who is the first author on the study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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