Not alive. I just wanted to clarify that first.
But the fossil remains of what is being dubbed Chororapithecus abyssinicus by the Ethiopian-Japanese team that discovered the ancient ape “represents the earliest recognised primate directly related to modern-day gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos.”
Found were a single canine and eight molars which show that Chororapithecus was either an early ancestor to the gorilla or an independent branch of ape with the same adaptations. While he admits this is an exciting discovery, Peter Andrews, a paleontologist at the British Natural History Museum, was skeptical enough about characteristics of the teeth to indicate it may be hasty to name a new species ancestral to gorillas. Andrews noted that if it is, indeed, a new species, the ape-human split must be pushed back on the evolutionary timeline.
The point at which a humans and chimpanzees had a common ancestor is generally held to be at around 7-8 million years ago.
“Chororapithecus indicates that a reconsideration of this assumption is needed,” the researchers [who discovered Chororapithecus] said. “In fact, if the orang line was present in Africa prior (to the) first migration of Miocene (some 23-25 million years ago) apes from Africa to Eurasia, then the human-orang split could have easily have been as old as 20 million years ago.”
More on this story can be found at this Reuters article: Researchers find prehistoric ape fossils.
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