Discovery of the Remains of a Long-Extinct Ape Throws Light on its History
Remains of a Long-Extinct Ape Discovered in a 2,300-year Old Ancient Tomb

The dodo, the Tasmanian wolf, the dinosaurs, the wooly mammoth, the Caspian tiger, the Steller’s sea cow, and so on. These are animals that can only be seen in pictures now. Yes, they are extinct today.

There have been mass extinction events since a very long time. And today, they are happening at a faster rate. This is because many species are unable to cope up with today’s environmental issues such as global warming, habitat destruction, or the impact of invasive species.

However, it is interesting to find that the remains of some of such animals still exist on earth, as they lead us to think how they became extinct and how they must have looked and survived. One of the recent discoveries is the remains of the extinct gibbon which was found in Shaanxi province in Central China. Its skull and jaw were found inside an ancient tomb that was built around 2,300 years ago.

The researchers from the Zoological Society of London say that the unknown species of gibbon namely Junzi imperialis, may be the first species of apes to have become extinct due to human activities and may have persisted until the 18th century. The study was documented in the journal Science.

Samuel T. Turvey from the Zoological Society of London and the study’s lead author said that it is almost certain that the gibbon’s demise is due to intense human impact on the environment during that period of history. “Our discovery and description of Junzi imperialis suggests that we are underestimating the impact of humans on primate diversity,” he said.

Based on the analysis of cranial and dental features, the ape has been found to belong to a new genus and species, and it possibly survived until a few hundred years ago.

Turvey also said that all the world’s apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons are under the threat of extinction today due to human exploitation of the environment, and that no ape species were thought to have become extinct due to hunting or habitat loss. “However, the discovery of the recently extinct Junzi changes this, and highlights the vulnerability of gibbons in particular,” he added.

In 2017, scientists from the University of South Wales (UNSW) discovered the fossilized remains such as skull, teeth, and humerus bone of a new species of marsupial lion which has been extinct for more than 19 million years. Named as Wakaleo Schouteni, the lion roamed Australia’s thick rainforests about 26 million years ago. The dental analysis says that the animal was a carnivorous. The species is about a fifth of the weight of the largest and last surviving marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, which weighed around 130 kg and has been extinct for 30,000 years. The discovery raised questions about the evolutionary relationships of marsupial lions.

“The identification of these new species has brought to light a level of marsupial lion diversity that was quite unexpected and suggest even deeper origins for the family,” said Anna Gillespie, a paleontologist from UNSW.