Scientists have found a piece of the puzzle that could decipher Gibbons’s evolutionary track.
They have got an answer from the pre-historic remains of the species (a partial upper jaw and seven isolated teeth) that were accidentally found in a village in southwestern China by a local villager.
Paleoanthropologist Xueping Ji of the Kunming, Natural History Museum of Zoology, China, said that these fossils along with 14 teeth fossils unearthed in the same region belong to a prehistoric hylobatid species called Yuanmoupithecus xiaoyuan.
The Hylobatids are a group of apes having almost 20 different species of Gibbons including some present today and a black-furred gibbon called the siamang (species living in the tropical forests from northern India to Indonesia).
According to the report published in the Journal of Human Evolution, this evidence support the thesis of Gibbons reaching Asia about 7 million to 8 million years ago.
Since Y. xiaoyuan was 1st introduced in the Chinese publication, Ji and the team presumed that this species was pre-historic Gibbons.
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This newly found Gibbons fossil had a partly grown molar tooth that helped the researchers identify it as an infant aged less than 2 years.
Similarities of the characteristics in the fossil of the ancient species Y. xiaoyuan with the present-day apes (Gibbons) make it more likely to claim the title as the oldest known Gibbon from a yet-to-be-concluded research report of a roughly 13-million-year-old fossil found in northeastern India.
This fossil found in India is categorized as a species called Kapi ramnagarensis, an extinct species of South Asian primates that were vastly unrelated to the present-day apes.
The research report obtained from the DNA analysis of living apes showed that the hylobatids in Africa split from other apes between 22 million and 17 million years ago.
However, “it’s a mystery when Gibbons ancestors arrived in Eurasia,” said paleoanthropologist and study coauthor Terry Harrison of New York University in a report.
But there’s a time gap of 10 million years (an estimated one) from when hylobatids first appeared in Africa and the proof of Y. xiaoyuan in Asia.
He also stated that genetic proof of the present Gibbons species shares the roots with the extinct one that lived 8 million years ago.
Based on their teeth structure, the researcher concluded that those species were eating fruits and green. However, much more study is needed to consider this as an accurate actual fact.