News of the WeekPaleoanthropology

Kenyan Skeleton Shakes Ape Family Tree

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Science  27 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5432, pp. 1335-1337
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5432.1335

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On page 1382 of this issue, a research team presents the most complete ape fossil known from about 11 million to 16 million years ago. Although the team initially thought it belonged to the controversial genus Kenyapithecus, they now argue that the new fossils actually belong in an entirely new genus. The new primate, which the team calls Equatorius, is not a close relative of living apes after all, but it does record apes' first steps down from the trees--a crucial evolutionary step that our own ancestors must have taken independently. And the reclassification suggests that Kenyapithecus was part of a great migration of apes out of Africa.