According to the newest research, we might finally know what the common ancestor to humans and apes looked like. In 2014 in Kenya, a 13-million year old skull was found that belonged to an infant. It was named Alesi and scientists believe it belonged to a primate that ate fruit and looked like a baby gibbon.
We, as humans, among all of the living primates, are in closest relation to apes which means also gibbons, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. However, we still don’t know much about our common ancestor as the fossil remains are scarce and fragmented. For this reason, scientists are not even sure where it might have originated from either.
Christopher Gilbert, a paleoanthropologist at Hunter College in New York and the study co-author said: “The living apes are found all across Africa and Asia — chimps and gorillas in Africa, orangutans and gibbons in Asia — and there are many fossil apes found on both continents, and Europe as well. So, as you can imagine, there are numerous possibilities for how that distribution came to be, and different researchers have suggested different hypotheses for where the common ancestor of the living apes and humans might be found.”
Gilbert went on to explain why this discovery is so special and what it tells us: “Because they are probably close to the ancestor of all living apes, the specimen may help give us some sort of idea of what the common ancestor of all living apes and modern humans might have looked like, and because our specimen looks most similar to gibbons among living apes, it would potentially support the idea that the common ancestor of living apes and humans looked like a gibbon.”
This is one of the very first craniums unearthed from the period between 10 million and 14 million years ago and especially one in such a great shape as this one. Ellen Miller, a primatologist and paleoanthropologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the study co-author commented on the discovery: “Alesi came from exactly the right time and place to show us what the ancestors of all the modern apes and humans might have looked like. We never had information on that before — it was always a mystery.”