Saturday, May 19, 2007

29 mln-year-old fossilised skull unearthed in Egypt

"The second and almost perfect 29 million-year-old fossilised skull of an ancient relative of humans, apes and monkeys has been unearthed in Egypt, media reported Tuesday.
The skull, from a species known as Aegyptopithecus zeuxis -- 'linking Egyptian ape' or dawn ape, was identified by Duke University primatologist Elwyn Simons in a quarry on the outskirts of Cairo. Because of the new specimen's remarkable wholeness, Simons and his colleagues were able to subject it to micro CT scanning, a computerized X-ray technique that can be used to calculate the approximate dimensions of the brain the cranium once encased.
According to Simons, the specimen is from a young female that lived in the early Oligocene, a period of global cooling, volcanic eruptions and seismic disturbance, driven by the collision of the Indian and Asian continental plates.
Based on previous fossils collected at the same dig site in a quarry outside Cairo, scientists have hypothesized that this early monkey already would have had a relatively large brain, said Simons."
See the above page for the full story, which is accompanied by a photograph of the tiny skull.

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