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.
|Contact: Tonya B. Lewis|