In some exciting news for natural history enthusiasts, paleontologists have discovered an Old World monkey fossil in China this week.
The 6.4 million-year-old fossils of the species were discovered in the Shuitangba lignite mine in the northeastern Yunnan Province of China.
Published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the research was focused on studying the 6.4-million-year-old lower jawbone and the upper portion of the leg bone found in the Shuitangba mine. Since the two specimens were found in close proximity it is speculated that they are probably from the same individual of Mesopithecus pentelicus.
The study says that the discovery of fossil elements are very important as they represent the oldest known monkeys from East Asia and their extended dispersal to southwestern China. The discovery also underscores its close affinities and potential ancestry to the odd-nosed colonies.
Professor Nina Jablonski, an anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, who was part of one of the studies, says that the discovered fossil might be the ancestor of many of the present-day monkeys of East Asia. From the perspective of paleontology, the interesting thing is that the old monkey occurs at the same place and same time as ancient apes in Asia.
The analysis of the ancient fossil was led by Dr. Dionisios Youlatos from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Dr. Xueping Ji from the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics.
The significance of the calcaneus or the heel bone is that it reveals the monkey was well adapted for moving nimbly and powerfully both on the ground and in the trees. This ability points out the success of the species in evolving as it dispersed across woodland corridors from Europe to Asia. These species were able to navigate through tree and land and their teeth structure indicated that they could consume a wide variety of plants, fruits, and flowers, while apes eat mostly fruit. Further analysis showed the fossil was that of a female monkey.