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Scientists discover 9 million year old ape from India

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, DHNS, Apr 26 2017, 15:22 IST
 A visual comparing the fossilised teeth with the normal ones, is attached. Photo credit A R Sankhyan

A visual comparing the fossilised teeth with the normal ones, is attached. Photo credit A R Sankhyan

Scientists on Tuesday reported the discovery of a 9 million year old ape from India, opening up a new window to study the lineages of extinct primates in the sub-continent.

The discovery confirms the existence of a very primitive ape-like species in South Asia almost 38 years since it was reported for the first time.

Known as pliopithecoids, the only known evidence of the presence of this pre-historic monkey in the lower Himalayas was a worn out upper molar teeth found in 1979 by two Indian researchers. They described it belonging to a new genus named Krishnapithecus.

Since then barely anything was known about these ape-like primates in South Asia who were sighted in Eurasia since 17 million years ago. No additional signature of this enigmatic primate was found in the last four decades.

The new fossil evidence in the form of two infant lower molar teeth comes from the clay deposits at Haritalyangar, near the village of Barada in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh. The area yielded several fossils in the past.

“The discovery confirms a late existence of Krishnapithecus (the largest known pliopithecoid) in Indian Siwalik Hills at 9 million years ago. It weighs about 15 kg and is slightly larger than the modern Siamang gibbons, which dwell in the Himalayas and South East Asia,” lead researchers Anek Ram Sankhyan from Palaeo Research Society, who claims to have found the two fossilised teeth in 2012 told DH.

Sankhyan, a retired scientist from the Anthropological Survey of India collaborated with Jay Kelley from the Arizona State University and Terry Harrison from the New York University to study the fresh evidence.

The discovery was reported in two scientific research papers published in the Journal of Human Evolution and Current Science. The Indo-US team describes the ape as Krishnapithecus krishnaii – a member of the pliopithecoid family.


The two fossilised teeth may to bridge a gap to understand the evolution of the primitive old world higher primates that were widespread in Eurasia during the Miocene (from 18 to 7 million years ago) era, but their fossil record in South Asia is virtually unknown.

For comparison, modern human beings (Homo sapiens) evolved about 200,000 years ago.

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