In the years that the Malapa Cave has been producing archaeological finds for the scientific community, it has once again provided another fossil for scientists to ponder. News about the earliest baboon specimen that was found in Malapa Cave came to light on the 19th of August.
WHAT LIES IN THE MALAPA CAVE?
The press release on this discovery discusses that the fossil specimen was the earliest baboon species found to date. The earliest baboon specimen dated as far back as around two million years ago.
Previous finds within the Malapa Cave include the Australopithecus sediba which marked a new species of human ancestry. Although this new earliest baboon specimen does not contribute to what is known about the human ancestry and evolution, it marks another find in the cave’s book.
THE EARLIEST BABOON SPECIES
The earliest baboon fossil specimen was a partial cranium that was described in the paper released in the PLOS journal as the only non-hominin fossil to be recovered in the Malapa Cave location as of yet. But the finding of this fossil in a cave where only hominin fossils had been found previously is not much of a surprise to researchers of the study. One researcher noted that baboons and hominin species have co-existed at various points in history and are evident in several fossil finds in Africa.
This little interesting nugget contributes greatly to the overall baboon evolution in South Africa and helps science gauge when the modern baboon began to mark its appearance with a better timeline. Researchers also mentioned that the divergent of the baboons of the bygone era began to the modern baboons of today began around 1.8 to 2.2 million years ago, around the same time the new fossil was estimated to be.
Also, the paper also mentions that the earliest baboon specimen had some indications of similarities in the anatomy to the modern baboon. The find is also exceedingly fortunate as previous finds were brittle or heavily fragmented, preventing intense study on the fossils.
It is the hope of the researchers that future fossils of the earliest baboon specimen will be found.
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