20 mn-year-old ape skull found in Uganda (Lead)

August 2nd, 2011 - 10:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Kampala, Aug 2 (IANS) A team of French and Ugandan scientists has discovered a nearly 20 million-year-old ape skull at a fossil site in northeastern Uganda, Xinhua reported Tuesday.

The discovery, made at Napak XV, a fossil site near Iriri river in the country’s Karamoja region, could offer a major breakthrough in understanding human ancestry and their closest cousins, the apes, say scientists.

The discovery is said to be the result of 25 years of research in the area.

Brigitte Senut of Museum National d’ Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France who headed the research, said: “It is very significant in the terms that it is the first time we find in Africa a complete or sub-complete skull of this kind of ape. It is the first one known in Africa and in the world. We can now understand better the brain evolution, face evolution and how it relates to other modern apes and to our own family.”

One of the researchers Martin Pickford of College de France described the ape as a young adult that could have died at the age of eight to 10 years and if it were to be human it could have been between 17 and 18 years old.

It was a size of a chimpanzee but its brain size was like that of a baboon, an interesting factor that, scientists say, needs further investigation.

Agnes Akiror, minister of state for tourism, described the discovery by a team of French and Ugandan scientists as critical for the promotion of tourism industry in the country.

The team discovered the sub-complete ape skull July 18.

The parts of the skull will be taken to Paris where they will be cleaned and put together before returning to Uganda, said researchers.

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