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Scientists find nine-million-year-old ape fossils in Himachal Pradesh


In a significant development in research on human evolution, scientists have found that a very primitive ape-like ancestor which was hitherto considered a native of only Eurasia had existed in India too.

Scientists discovered the surprise fossil during an excavation in Haritalyangar in Shiwalik hills region in Himachal Pradesh, about 120 km from Shimla on the road to Kangra.

The fossils are nine million year old and are in the form of lower molar germs or permanent teeth that are un-erupted and still forming in lower jaw. The crowns of both the molars are fully formed, but there is no root formation. This indicates that they belonged to infants of slightly different ages at the time of their deaths. One specimen is a partial right first molar and other a complete left second molar. The apes seemed to be slightly larger (about 15 kg heavier) than the modern-day Siamang Gibbons, that are found in the Himalaya and South-East Asia.

Detailed studies showed that the specimens were similar to those of a genus of primitive ape-like ancestors called pliopithecoid, which were widespread in Eurasia during the Miocene period (18 million to seven million years ago).

Interestingly, the specimens were also consistent in size and morphology to an upper third molar that was found in the same region in the 1970s. At that time it was suspected that the specimen was perhaps related to pliopithecoid genus but it was highly worn out and could not be studied properly. The specimen was initially identified as Pliopithecus krishnaii but was later transferred to a new genus Krishnapithecus.




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