A 13 million-year-old fossil discovered by an international team of researchers in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir. The fossil found is the earliest known ancestor of the modern day gibbon.
The finding has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal and fills a major gap in the ape fossil record and provides substantial evidence about when the gibbons migrated to Asia from Africa.
The fossil was found when a team of researchers from Arizona State University in US and and Panjab University in Chandigarh were climbing a small hill in Jammu and Kashmir when they spotted something shiny in a small pile of dirt on the ground.
“We knew immediately it was a primate tooth, but it did not look like the tooth of any of the primates previously found in the area,” said Christopher C. Gilbert, from City University of New York.
“From the shape and size of the molar, our initial guess was that it might be from a gibbon ancestor, but that seemed too good to be true, given that the fossil record of lesser apes is virtually nonexistent,” added Gilbert.
Since the discovery of the fossil in 2015, researchers spent years in study, analysis, and comparison to verify that the tooth belongs to a new species, as well as to accurately determine its place in the ape family tree.
“What we found was quite compelling and undeniably pointed to the close affinities of the 13-million-year-old tooth with gibbons,” said Alejandra Ortiz, from Arizona State University. Ortiz is a part of the research team working on finding the details of the ape family tree.