Navigation Links
Discovery by Baylor University researchers sheds new light on the habitat of early apes

WACO, Texas (Feb. 18, 2014)-- Baylor University researchers, in collaboration with an international team of scientists, have discovered definitive evidence of the environment inhabited by the early ape Proconsul on Rusinga Island, Kenya. The groundbreaking discovery provides additional information that will help scientists understand and interpret the connection between habitat preferences and the early diversification of the ape-human lineage.

Their research findings--published this month in Nature Communications--demonstrate that Proconsul and its primate relative Dendropithecus inhabited "a widespread, dense, multistoried, closed canopy" forest. The study is available here online.

Daniel Peppe, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences, said that previous work on the fossil sites on Rusinga Island suggested a variety of contradictory environmental preferences for Proconsul and that none of the previous work could definitively tie Proconsul to a specific habitat.

"Our research findings provide direct evidence and confirm where the early ape lived about 18 to 20 million years ago," Peppe said. "We now know that Proconsul lived in a closed-canopy, tropical seasonal forest set in a warm and relatively wet local climate."

Lauren Michel, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the geology department at Baylor, was among the team of international researchers who found fossils of a single individual of Proconsul among geological deposits that also contained tree stump casts, calcified roots and fossil leaves. This discovery "underscores the importance of forested environments in the evolution of early apes," Peppe said.

"While excavating one of the major fossil sites on Rusinga Island, our team found four teeth from Proconsul amid an expansive fossil forest system," Michel said. "Ultimately, we were able to find 29 tree stump casts and unearth root casts in the same horizon as the fossil teeth."

"The varying diameters of the tree stumps coupled with their density within the fossil soil, implies that the forest would have been comprised of trees with interlocking or overlapping branches, thus creating a canopy," Michel said.

Also, further evidence from the excavation site has shown that the landscape was "stable for decades to a few hundred years while the forest grew," Michel added.

Adding to the novelty of the research teams' findings is how all of forest artifacts were contained in one layer or strata.

"What is spectacular about this discovery is that all of these individual elements--tree stumps, leaves, roots, animals--are tied together in a single stratigraphic interval. This gives us tremendous resolution in reconstructing the specific environment inhabited by one of our early ape ancestors," said Kieran P. McNulty, Ph.D., co-director of research on Rusinga Island and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota.

Researchers were also able to determine the climate for the fossil forest.

"Evidence from the forest fossil soil suggests that the precipitation was seasonal with a distinct wet and dry period. During the dry season, there was probably relatively little rainfall," Peppe said. "Additionally, by studying fossil leaves at the site, we were able to estimate that there was about 55 to 100 inches of rainfall a year and the average annual temperature was between 73 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit."

Research on Rusinga Island has been ongoing for more than 80 years and has resulted in the collection of thousands of mammal fossils, including many well-preserved specimens of Proconsul and other primates.

Evidence from these fossils of Proconsul indicate that it probably had a body position somewhat "similar to modern monkeys," but that details of its anatomy suggest some "more ape-like climbing and clambering" abilities. Since 2011, the team's research at the fossil forest site has resulted in the collection of several additional new primate fossils.

"This understanding of Proconsul's skeletal anatomy and how it moved demonstrates that the species was well-suited for life in a dense, closed canopy forest, which is consistent with our findings," Michel said.


Contact: Tonya B. Lewis
Baylor University

Related biology news :

1. Graduate student makes major discovery about seal evolution
2. Quest for jellyfish robot leads to discovery of bending rules for animal wing, fin tips
3. €85 million for new way to carry out antibiotic drug discovery
4. Genetic discovery to keep crops disease-free
5. Discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules corroborates theory of consciousness
6. Important discovery for the diagnosis of genetic diseases
7. New discovery could stimulate plant growth and increase crop yields, researchers say
8. Mutation discovery may improve treatment for rare brain tumor type
9. T2 and collaborators announce discovery of novel clot structure biology enabled by T2HemoStat
10. Discovery leads to patent for novel method of treating traumatic brain injury
11. Discovery spotlights key role of mystery RNA modification in cells
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Discovery by Baylor University researchers sheds new light on the habitat of early apes
(Date:5/16/2016)... , May 16, 2016   EyeLock LLC , ... announced the opening of an IoT Center of Excellence ... and expand the development of embedded iris biometric applications. ... level of convenience and security with unmatched biometric accuracy, ... identity aside from DNA. EyeLock,s platform uses video technology ...
(Date:5/9/2016)... DUBAI , UAE, May 9, 2016 ... choice when it comes to expanding freedom for high ... Even in today,s globally connected world, there ... online conferencing system could ever duplicate sealing your deal ... are obtaining second passports by taking advantage of citizenship ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... and BANGALORE, India , April 28, 2016 ... a product subsidiary of Infosys (NYSE: INFY ), ... a global partnership that will provide end customers ... mobile banking and payment services.      (Logo: ... innovation area for financial services, but it also plays a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range of subjects ... the two entities said Poloz. Speaking at a ... , he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which ... "In certain areas ... have common economic goals, why not sit down and address ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader ... “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, ... providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 A person commits a crime, and ... to track the criminal down. An outbreak of ... Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down the ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used a ... of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole genome ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a university competition that asks ... systems and biotechnology, announced its winning teams at the ... York City . The teams, chosen ... MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during the daylong summit. Keynote ... of architecture and design, and Suzanne Lee , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: