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Fred Spoor

A new discovery of a nearly intact 13 million-year-old infant ape skull could fill a critical gap in our understanding of how similar hominoids began to evolve and differentiate into separate species, researchers reported in Nature today.

Why it matters: Hominoids — which includes modern humans, our archaic ancestors and relatives, and great apes — diversified into dozens of different species starting roughly 23 million years ago. But, due to the lack of complete skull specimens, the fossil record is essentially blank from about 17 million years ago to 7 million years ago. This new discovery falls in the middle of that archaeological blind spot and is the best candidate so far for a common ancestor of all apes.

The lemon-sized specimen was assigned to a new species of ape that evolved alongside gibbons, great apes and humans. Because the skull was discovered intact, researchers were able to compare the infant ape skull to partial cranial data for gibbons. They saw distinct differences including the size of part of its inner ear canal, which they say suggests this particular ape species was likely more comfortable on the ground than in the trees.

Cyprian Nyete (left) and Isaiah Nengo (right) excavating the skull of a new species, Nyanzapithecus alesi.Credit: tIsaiah Nengo

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook changes corporate name to Meta

Screen shot of CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the company's "Connect" virtual event

CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday said the social media giant is renaming its company Meta.

Why it matters: The effort is meant to shift its image from a social media platform to a “metaverse” company that focuses on building virtual work and social communities.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Filings show Sweetgreen isn't profitable, despite claims

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Why it matters: The company lied when it repeatedly told reporters it was profitable.

U.S. border cities again see low violent crime rates

Expand chart
Data: FBI, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Reported violent crime in the United States rose in 2020 for the first time in four years, but violent crime rates in 11 of the largest communities along the U.S.-Mexico border stayed below the national average, an Axios analysis found. 

Why it matters: Year after year, data showing low violent crime rates in majority-Mexican American and Mexican immigrant border communities dispels myths of the U.S.-Mexico border as a region filled with crime and chaos.