Aug 9, 2017

Scientists find a new candidate for the ancestor of all apes — that includes us

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

The growing coronavirus recession threat

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In just a matter of weeks, top economists and investment bank analysts have gone from expecting the coronavirus outbreak to have minimal impact on the U.S. economy to warning that an outright recession may be on the horizon.

What's happening: The spread of confirmed coronavirus cases in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S., and the speed at which they are being discovered has set the table for the outbreak to have a larger and much costlier impact.

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee on Wednesday, including the gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at a Wednesday evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus updates: South Korea case count tops 2,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 8 hours ago - Health